SPOKANE, Wash. -- Every year, Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle expects his team to have a few lackluster performances.

He's just never sure when those will occur.

The 15th-ranked Buffaloes (14-2, 3-0 Pac-12) had one on Wednesday night against Washington State, but battled through it to pull out a 71-70 overtime win.

"I've always felt this: in a 30-game season, there's going to be probably five games where you play above your head, better than the norm," Boyle said. "There's five other games where you play below your expectation level and you kind of stink it up. Last night was one of those games for us. The other 20 is kind of who you are.

"When those subpar games come, or when those games come when you play above your head, is critical."

The Buffs' general lack of energy nearly cost them against the last-place Cougars (7-8, 0-3).

On Thursday, the Buffs returned to the court for a two-hour practice session at Gonzaga University, and their energy level was considerably better.

"It was a good practice and that's what we need coming off a lazy victory," sophomore Xavier Johnson said.

Sophomore guard Xavier Talton, who is one of the team's top players off the bench, said it was evident early on Wednesday that the Buffs didn't have their usual pep.

"It felt so much different than any other day," Talton said. "In our warmup we were probably a little too loose and we weren't really necessarily dialed in. We have to be mature enough to be able to be loose but handle our business on the court."


The biggest disappointment for the Buffs on Wednesday was their defense. Washington State came in as the worst shooting team in the conference, both in overall field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage. The Cougars nailed 45 percent of their shots, though, including 56.5 percent of their 3s.

On Thursday, the Buffs worked almost exclusively on their defense.

"They had energy and we watched film this morning and I think they saw on the film that (against Washington State) we didn't have the energy and aggressiveness that we normally have and should have and we take pride in," Boyle said.

"Our defense and our rebounding are things we have to be always depend on, night in and night out. It failed us last night. We were fortunate enough to win that game."

Next up, the Buffs will visit Washington, which is off to a 2-1 start to conference play. Boyle said his team has to be better Sunday.

"The way we practiced today leads me to believe our guys learned from (Wednesday)," he said. "We have to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Long layoff

The Buffs are in the midst of their longest conference road trip, as they have three days off in between games.

"It's tough, but there are some perks to it," Johnson said. "We're able to go out with our teammates a lot and get to know them better, and just be able to learn from our mistakes (from the Washington State game)."

CU will practice at Gonzaga on Friday morning before flying to Seattle in the afternoon.

Friendly face

Gonzaga coach Mark Few is a good friend of Boyle, which is why the Buffs are able to spend a couple of days practicing at the Bulldogs' facility.

Although the Gonzaga men's team was out of town -- playing at Portland -- on Thursday, Boyle was able to have dinner with Few on Tuesday night.


Guard Askia Booker did not participate in Thursday's practice for unspecified reasons. Boyle said he believed Booker would be fine, however. ... Booker is averaging 19.2 points over his last five games. ... CU's 14-2 start is its best since the 1968-69 team also started 14-2. ... Sunday's game at Washington is slated for a 1 p.m. MDT tip. It will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.