Normally, Colorado head basketball coach Tad Boyle keeps his emotions in check as he walks the sidelines on game nights.

Wednesday night, there was no chance of keeping them under wraps.

Boyle was fired up throughout the night and then high-fived just about everyone - and even chest-bumped athletic director Rick George - after his Buffaloes pulled off a critical victory, 61-52 against Arizona State at Coors Events Center.

"I'm tired of losing to these guys, No. 1, and No. 2, I knew what was at stake," said Boyle, whose team had lost three in a row to the Sun Devils.

"I wanted to make sure I was dialed in. I feel that way every game. I may not show it every game, but I feel that burn. I wanted our fans to know, I wanted our players to know how important it was.

"I think they really fed off of it."

Josh Scott posted his 11th double-double of the season and Askia Booker scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the second half as CU (20-7, 9-5 Pac-12) earned one of its most important wins of the season.

"The first four minutes of the game, I think at the first media timeout, you could tell how intense coach was in the huddle," Booker said. "You saw all the emotion, maybe the most I've seen out of him this year. You could tell he really wanted to win and I think that translated to the players."

CU is now 6-4 since star point guard Spencer Dinwiddie suffered a season-ending knee injury, but the Buffs had not defeated a top-notch opponent without him. Now they have.


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Arizona State (19-7, 8-5 Pac-12) came into Wednesday's game ranked No. 28 by realtimerpi.com. Colorado was No. 26.

"I won't let myself think about what might have been with Spencer, but there's a lot of basketball to be played and we can win a lot of games down the stretch with this team," Boyle said. "They know it, I think our fans are starting to understand that, and that's what building a program is all about. You've got to be bigger than one player or one person."

Under Boyle, CU has now produced four consecutive 20-win seasons. The Buffs had just four 20-win seasons in their history before he arrived in Boulder for the 2010-11 season.

Getting win No. 20 this time wasn't easy.

ASU opened the second half on a 6-0 run to take its biggest lead of the game, 32-27.

That's when Booker got hot. The 6-foot-2 guard shrugged off his poor first half and scored six straight points for the Buffs, sparking an 18-4 run that changed the game.

"When it's time to go, it's time to go," Booker said. "Honestly I don't feel there's many people that can stay in front of me, so coach told me to attack the basket, come off ball screens and be aggressive."

During CU's big run, which lasted nine minutes, the Buffs held the Sun Devils to just one field goal, a layup by dynamic point guard Jahii Carson. That run allowed CU to extend its lead to a game-high nine points, 45-36, with 7:01 to go.

The Sun Devils came back in a hurry, though, as Jonathan Gilling drilled three 3-pointers in the next 93 seconds to cut the CU lead to 47-45.

CU then held ASU to just one field goal - a 3-pointer by Shaquielle McKissic - during the final 5:28 of the game, and Booker went 6-for-6 at the free throw line in the final 39 seconds.

Carson finished with 18 points for the Sun Devils, but had just five - all at the line - in the last 13 minutes. Gilling, who had 10 points, was the only other Sun Devil in double figures.

The Buffs had their worst shooting percentage (37.0 percent) in a victory since Feb. 7, 2013, at Oregon. Yet, they out-rebounded the Sun Devils 48-27 and held them to 31.5 percent shooting.

"We didn't play our best, but we played good enough to win," Boyle said. "It wasn't a pretty win, but it was a gutty win.

"You're not going to play perfect, but we were playing together offensively and we gutted it out defensively tonight, and the rebounding in the second half was the name of the game."

Colorado isn't looking for style, though. The Buffs will take wins any way they can get them, and this one was big. That's why Boyle wasn't afraid to show his emotions.

"That was a great win for our program and it came at a very instrumental time in the season against a very quality Arizona State team," he said.

"This team is believing in each other right now, which a month ago, when Spencer and Fletch went down, there was some worry and some non-belief.

"Our guys have gotten it back and I'm awful proud of them."

Notable

This is just the fourth time in CU history that the Buffs have won 20 games in the regular season (also in 1968-69, 1996-97 and 2012-13). CU is 16-1 at home this season and 60-8 at home in four seasons under Boyle. Booker went 5-for-17 from the floor, but the surprising part is that he didn't attempt a 3-pointer. It's the first time since his freshman year - against Arizona State on Feb. 11, 2012 - that Booker played a game without attempting at least one 3. It's just the fifth time in his career he's done that. Xavier Talton had a career-high five assists for CU. Jaron Hopkins made the only 3 for the Buffs, who went 1-for-9 from beyond the arc. Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.

Fast break
What went right
The Buffs were fantastic on the boards (out-rebounding ASU 48-27) and on defense, especially in the second half.
What went wrong
Offensively, the Buffs made just 37 percent of their shots (20 of 54).
Star of the game
Josh Scott. He had 13 points and 13 rebounds and played exceptional defense on ASU center Jordan Bachynski, holding him to four points and three rebounds.
What's next?
The Buffs host No. 4 Arizona on Saturday.