In recent days, Colorado Buffaloes senior Josh Scott has been reminded of a particular bit of wisdom once imparted to him by former teammate and current Detroit Pistons reserve Spencer Dinwiddie.
It is advice Scott is trying to pass on to his younger, less experienced teammates as CU continues to struggle in late-game situations.
"Spencer once told me that you find out who shines in the lights," Scott said. "I think it's one of those things where you have to look internally if you get tentative. You have to realize you have to be aggressive. That's just something I've learned personally. It comes from experience, but it's also a mentality."
The Buffs got back to work Sunday afternoon less than 48 hours after CU's latest late-game meltdown resulted in a dispiriting two-point loss against Utah. With home dates coming up this week against Oregon State on Wednesday and Oregon on Sunday, correcting the team's failures with the game on the line has become a pressing priority for head coach Tad Boyle.
Over the past five games, CU has unraveled late in the second half in four of them, with the lone exception occurring in a lopsided loss at Cal on Jan. 1. In the other four the Buffs have managed to come away with victories in two of them, holding on for dear life as seemingly comfortable leads against Penn State and Stanford turned into unnecessarily stressful wins.
Against then-No. 18 SMU on Dec. 18, CU was able to put together a 14-0 run midway through the second half to take an eight-point lead with under nine minutes remaining. The Mustangs outscored the Buffs 24-12 the rest of the way to rally for the win.
It was a similar scene this past Friday, as a driving layup from Josh Fortune gave CU an eight-point edge with 5 minutes, 25 seconds left to play. Utah took advantage of poorly-timed CU turnovers and a few defensive miscues by the Buffs down the stretch to stun the home crowd with a game-ending 11-2 run.
"There's no teacher like experience," Boyle said. "What I try to do is short-circuit that process as best as I can as a coach, but at the end of the day until they've been there and done that, and they've been in those situations that are pressure-packed, you don't know how they're going to react.
"George King hasn't been in a lot of those situations. Dom Collier hasn't been in those situations. And they haven't been in those roles."
Until the Penn State game on Dec. 22, the Buffs had mostly avoided having to salt away wins in the final minutes. Though there were several second-half comebacks during the 11-game winning streak that highlighted nonconference play, those rallies generally were so thorough that CU didn't have to worry about protecting a narrow lead in the waning moments.
Given how there likely will be few lopsided margins in Pac-12 Conference play, it is a weakness CU is looking to fix in a hurry.
"I think it's a little bit of both — experience and paying attention in practice," Scott said. "It's coming in and watching film. It's executing. And it's just not being tentative. Doing the things that have worked for us in the past. It's just one of those things where you've just got to learn every day. Experiences like Utah are not fun, but they can pay off in the long run."