What went right: Colorado buckled down during the final 16 minutes of regulation and the five minutes of overtime. The Buffs were efficient on offense, stingy on defense and aggressive on the boards to get an important win.
What went wrong: Too many turnovers during the first 24 minutes of the game helped Utah build a 12-point lead.
Star of the game: Xavier Talton. The sophomore came off the bench to score a career-high 14 points. He went 4-for-5 from 3-point range, snagged three rebounds and had a career-high two blocks.
What's next?: The Buffs will host Washington State on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
With just under 17 minutes to play on Saturday afternoon, there was a feeling in the Coors Events Center that the season for the Colorado men's basketball team was on the verge of falling apart.
Coming in with four losses in their previous five games, the Buffaloes trailed Utah by 12 points and a portion of the crowd was booing the home team. Lose this one and the Buffs might have said goodbye to their NCAA Tournament hopes.
Colorado didn't crumble, though. Instead, the Buffs rallied for a critical 79-75 overtime victory over the Utes.
"I think it's a really big thing," sophomore Xavier Talton said. "We went 1-4 the past give games. Coming off of this win, I think it's going to give us a confidence boost. I think going from here forward we can only get better."
Talton had a career-high 14 points, including five in overtime, as the Buffaloes (16-6, 5-4 Pac-12) improved to 13-1 at home this season. Utah (14-7, 3-6) lost its 11th consecutive road game, dating back to last season.
Talton was one of several Buffs to step up on Saturday. Josh Scott (20 points, 10 rebounds) had his ninth double-double of the season and Xavier Johnson (11 points, 10 rebounds) had his second. Junior guard Askia Booker flirted with a triple-double, finishing with 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Wesley Gordon added 12 points and six boards.
The final result - and the way the Buffs got it - was exactly what they needed after their tough weekend in Arizona last week.
"We had talked all week in practice about mindset and mental toughness and how mental toughness shows up in so many different areas of basketball," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "I thought our guys really responded tonight, especially when you look at the fact that we dropped down by 12 in the second half and we just fought back and fought back. I just love the way our guys competed tonight."
Utah grabbed its biggest lead of the game, 47-35, on layup by Brandon Taylor with 16 minutes, 42 seconds to go. CU's 11th turnover of the game led to that layup. It drew some boos from the stands and prompted a timeout by the Buffs.
"That was a critical point in the game, but as far as season on the brink, I'm not going to go that far," Boyle said. "I felt like, 'We've got to get back to what we worked on in practice.'"
Boyle told his team during that timeout that they were going to hit some shots and get the crowd into it. And, he told them that the key to the rally would be playing good defense.
Coming out of that timeout, CU put all of that into play, going on a 14-2 run to tie the game at 49-49.
A block by Scott and a steal and layup from Eli Stalzer sparked that surge, while Talton hit back-to-back 3s to tie the Utes.
In all, the Buffs out-scored the Utes 30-18 during the final 16:31 of regulation, but it still wasn't enough to get the job done.
Scott hit a pair of free throws with 19.2 seconds to play in regulation that gave CU a 65-62 lead, but Taylor drained his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 5.3 seconds to play to tie it.
Booker's 3-point attempt at the buzzer was long and the game went to overtime.
In the extra session, Talton drained an early 3 to give CU a 68-65 lead, and the Buffs never trailed again, scoring on eight of their nine possessions. Booker went 5-for-6 at the free throw line in the final 46 seconds to seal the win.
"That's another sign of mental toughness," Boyle said of how his team played in overtime. "(The Utes) hit the 3 to send it into overtime. They get the momentum, our guys are dejected, the fans are dejected. Guess what? We don't let that bother us coming out of overtime. That's a sign of mental toughness that this team exhibited today."
CU's mental toughness down the stretch may have saved its season, although the Buffs didn't buy into that.
"It didn't feel like our season was in jeopardy even before this game," Scott said. "I think everybody outside of (CU's locker room) probably was freaking out, but I don't think we were. We have confidence and believe in each other. This game was a big game no matter how many games we'd lost or won before it. It's a home game. You need to win at home. To me, it was just the next step for this team. It was a big step forward, and hopefully we can keep going forward from here."