BOULDER - After being manhandled twice by Stanford in their first Pac-12 Conference season, the Colorado Buffaloes struck back Thursday night - hard, early and often.
Leading from opening tip to final buzzer, the Buffs bashed the Cardinal 75-54 at the Coors Events Center before 11,212 - the fourth largest crowd in school history. It was CU's first win against Stanford in six tries, with the Buffs' last victory coming on Dec. 23, 1990 in Boulder.
Despite the five straight losses to Stanford - and particularly the pair last season - CU coach Tad Boyle downplayed any revenge factor that might have motivated his team. "It was sweet," said Boyle, "because I respect Stanford and (coach) Johnny Dawkins . . . but relative to what happened last year - no."
What happened last year actually occurred twice - once at Stanford, once in Boulder. The Cardinal won big in both places, 84-64 and 74-50, respectively. And the Buffs were brutalized both times, outrebounded by a combined 85-53 total and shredded defensively as the Cardinal shot a cumulative 50 percent from the field.
Thursday night's story unfolded much differently, even if the physicality remained high. Said Boyle: "It was a bloodbath out there . . . it was one of those games where you had to put the ball in the basket. We told our guys at timeouts not to look for fouls."
There were 36 called and what appeared to be an equal number uncalled. But the Buffs, improving to 8-1 this season in the Events Center and 40-5 at home in Boyle's third season, followed their coach's advice and didn't depend on whistles.
Instead, they relied on balanced scoring - all five starters were in double figures - tenacious rebounding by junior Andre Roberson and steely defense. Roberson tied a career high with 20 of the Buffs' 48 rebounds (the Cardinal collected 30) and added 12 points.
"We fed off Andre tonight . . . (he) was a beast and played like the Andre we know and love. He was after it from the get-go" Boyle said.
Roberson's energy seemed unlimited and spilled over to the entire starting lineup. Sophomore Askia Booker scored a team-high 13, including eight consecutive points midway through the second half when Stanford closed to within eight. Freshman Josh Scott and sophomore Spencer Dinwiddie also scored 12 points each, while freshman Xavier - it's OK to call him "Jam" - Johnson contributed 11.
Making his fifth start, "XJ" also was a power source for CU, getting eight of his points on dunks that left the big crowd delirious. "He gave us big-time energy," said Boyle. "Those dunks got us going."
If Boyle downplayed any revenge factor, Booker said one was present "without a doubt . . . the coaches were talking about how bad they beat us on the boards last year."
Added Roberson: "I definitely feel like we had a lot to prove . . . we came out tonight and put it on them."
Roberson controlled the glass but had help. Booker and Dinwiddie accounted for seven rebounds, and Sabatino Chen came off the bench to collect six to go with his seven points. CU's bench outscored Stanford's 15-13, and the Buffs prevailed in the paint 44-20.
The Cardinal guards - Aaron Bright and Chasson Randle - were held to a combined 7-for-29 from the field. Randle led Stanford with 15 points, but he hit only five of his 21 attempts. And as a team, Stanford shot 31.3 percent (20-for-64) from the field, giving Boyle the edge he craves nightly in defense and rebounding.
Dawkins said CU "played with terrific energy and they moved well. They just defended well. I thought a tone was set from the beginning."
Wanting a good start, the Buffs couldn't have had a better one. Scoring on their first nine possessions, they went up 16-5, with Johnson's first jam of the night - a baseline drive from the left side - getting CU to 16.
After his first slam, "XJ" wasn't through and his teammates weren't either. Jam No. 2 came on a drive from the right baseline at the tail end of a 16-5 run that pushed CU ahead 42-25. Then he scored the final points of the half on a tip dunk after a Scott miss for a 44-29 halftime lead.
CU outrebounded Stanford 24-14 in the first half, with Roberson getting 11 of his board total in the first 20 minutes. The Buffs were careful with the ball, too, not committing the first of their four first-half turnovers until 3:26 remained before intermission. They went 27 possessions before turning it over, finishing with a dozen.
After never trailing in the first half, the Buffs' pressing second-half question was whether they could maintain their intensity - knowing the Cardinal would ratchet up its own. The short answer for CU: Yes.
When Johnson threw down his fourth jam - this one on a breakaway at the 14-minute mark - the Buffs took their largest lead of the night, 54-36. But the Cardinal wasn't done.
Stanford closed to within 11 points (54-43) on a three-point play by Rosco Allen, then cut CU's advantage to single digits (54-46) on a three-pointer by Randle with 9:55 to play.
But the Cardinal never came closer than eight points. A pair of free throws by Dinwiddie with 8:53 to play restored the Buffs' 10-point lead (56-46). And after Roberson swat and rebound, the irrepressible Booker scored eight consecutive points for a 64-48 CU advantage with just over 6 minutes remaining.
Booker had gone to the bench because of fouls (he finished with four), but was sent back in by Boyle. "I was in foul trouble, and coach told me when I got back in the game to make something happen," Booker said. "Coach believes in me . . . I love those moments."
When Chen buried a three-pointer from the left corner with 2:23 left, CU went up by 19 (70-51). The lead got larger when Boyle emptied his bench, with crowd favorite Ben Mills scoring his four points in the final minute.
The Buffs (13-6, 3-4) are back at the Events Center on Sunday (1:30 p.m., FSN) to face California. Stanford (11-8, 3-3) visits Utah Sunday.