BOULDER - Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle and sophomore guard Spencer Dinwiddie are due for a conversation on in-state basketball etiquette, specifically what not to say before a rivalry game.
But their talk can wait - at least for a year.
After he had scored a career-high 29 points on Wednesday night in leading CU to a grind-it-out 70-61 victory against archrival Colorado State, Dinwiddie said his "little brother" analogy of CSU was, ah, misinterpreted.
"I think they took it as disrespect; I didn't mean it in a disrespectful way," a grinning Dinwiddie said. "I have a lot of respect for their team . . . but being able to back up the comment with a win is great; they were on my Twitter a lot."
He was on the Rams just as fiercely as the Buffs started strong, finished stronger and finally put away the visitors before a record crowd of 11,708 at the Coors Events Center.
"What an atmosphere for college basketball," Boyle said. "It's a testament to our fans and how they've stepped up and supported us."
First-year CSU coach Larry Eustachy said the rollicking†Events Center environment as well as the intensity of the game "completely broke us down. When we did play right, we just couldn't sustain it. When we played how we were supposed to, we were fighting back . . . this is the first time we've been in this situation."
The Buffs got better than average road support last weekend at Wyoming, but their effort wasn't in synch with their backing. The Cowboys won 76-69, and aside from his team's first loss, Boyle said "the most disappointing thing was all the people who went up there and we let them down . . . we told our guys that we're representing more than just ourselves."
That message, as well as one forcibly delivered in Monday's smash-mouth practice, surfaced in what Boyle likened to "an NCAA-type game" against CU's rival from up the road.
In dealing CSU (6-1) its first defeat, CU (7-1) went up by 20 points at halftime, but saw that lead dwindle to three (54-51) in the final 6:45 after a 19-5 Rams run. But a 5-0 Buffs spurt and a recommitment to rigid defense kept the Rams at bay; from the 6:45 mark to the final buzzer, CSU hit only one of its last 11 shots (and that was a trey at the buzzer) and never pulled closer than seven points.
Dinwiddie was 8-of-10 from the field (5-of-7 from beyond the arc) and had an "all-Pac-12" kind of game, said Boyle. Dinwiddie said he was "just hitting my shots . . . it was more about us playing defense."
As for Dinwiddie's idle Tuesday chatter about CSU, Boyle laughed and said, "I've got to talk to Spencer about that (but) he backed it up . . . we have to be a little smarter. He just believes in himself and his teammates."
Junior forward Andre Roberson was the only other CU player in double figures. He picked up his fourth consecutive double-double and the 29th of his career, getting 15 points and 14 rebounds.
CSU got 19 points and 14 rebounds from Colton Iverson and 18 points from Dorian Green. The 6-10, 260-pound Iverson might have been Boyle's biggest nightmare in the run-up to the Rams, but Boyle wisely rotated 6-10 freshman Josh Scott and 6-11 junior Shane Harris-Tunks on Iverson and made him toil for his totals.
Of Scott, Boyle said, "He grew up tonight as a post defender . . . he was totally different from the Wyoming game." And Roberson said Harris-Tunks "did a great job of being physical against (Iverson)."
The Buffs wanted a solid start - and they might have exceeded their expectations. Before the Rams could blink a couple of times, they trailed 9-0.
Roberson opened the scoring by hitting a soft foul-line jumper (2-0), then followed with an angry stuff after a steal/lob pass by Dinwiddie (4-0). If you thought things were going CU's way, a banked-in trey by Askia Booker - his only points of the first half - made it 7-0. Then a sweet spin by Sabatino Chen sent the Buffs up 9-0.
And this was their warm-up act.
When CSU blinked again, CU had strung together a 20-5 run and was up 20 (35-15). Before the half was over, the Buffs would lead by 25 (42-17). Dinwiddie jump-started and finished that push, burying three three-pointers and hitting a pair of free throws following a technical foul called on an irate Iverson with 5:18 before halftime.
After the weekend loss at Wyoming, Boyle had challenged his team to be tougher defensively and to rebound with authority. The Rams - the NCAA's rebound margin leader at plus-17.3 - had a 42-30 advantage for the game, including 18 offensive boards.
Still, the Buffs' 'D' was exemplary; CSU wound up shooting 35.6 percent from the field (21-for-59) and Boyle said he'd take that statistic over a rebounding edge.
"But I want both," he added.
CU's second-half challenge was to keep the pedal down, but CSU had other plans. With Iverson powering inside for four of his team's first six points, the Rams opened the last half with a 6-0 run and pulled to within 42-28.
Dinwiddie's turn . . . his free throw followed by back-to-back treys restored a 17-point (49-32) CU advantage. But rolling over wasn't for the Rams; a 7-0 run pulled them within 10 points (49-39) with ample time - 13:25 - remaining.
After Boyle called time out, Dinwiddie delivered with a spinning layup (51-39) - and a frantic final 12 minutes began for both teams. The Rams closed their deficit to single digits (54-45) on a banker from the left side by Wes Eikmeier.
It was the closest they had been since 22-13, and they would get to 54-47 on a pair of Green free throws, 54-49 on an Iverson layup, then 54-51 on an Eikmeier layup with 6:45 left. That basket capped a 10-0 CSU run, and Boyle called time out.
Said Roberson: "We were focusing on continuing to get stops. We knew they would come back with a run, that they weren't going to go away . . . we called a timeout and got everybody to calm down, keep our composure and get back to our defensive rebounding."
A Dinwiddie free throw at the 6:21 mark finally got CU a point, a twisting lay-in by Booker got the Buffs two more, and a put-back by Scott pushed CU's advantage to 59-51. They went back up by double digits (63-52) on a drive by Chen with just over 3 minutes remaining.
The Rams never got closer than seven points the rest of the night, and Boyle's record against CSU went to 4-3 - 2-1 at CU. The word of the day to his team, he said, was "dictate . . . that was on our board in the locker room. Dictate tempo and pressure; let them know they were in for 40 minutes of in-your-face basketball . . . they did cut it to three but we didn't lose our composure."
Now, said Boyle, his team must do as it did Wednesday on a more consistent basis. "It feels good because we beat a good team; we knew how good CSU was," he said. "It's huge, but we've got a big game on Saturday."
That would be at Boyle's alma mater, No. 9 Kansas (noon MST, ESPN2). Boyle is 0-3 against the Jayhawks, with all three losses coming in his first season at CU.