This week is not the first time the Colorado Buffaloes have welcomed an opportunity to avenge an earlier loss.
CU did so when Cal came to town on Jan. 31, and again when Washington visited on Feb. 13. Yet neither of the Buffs' previous losses against those squads left the sort of sting they felt after letting what would have been a key Pac-12 Conference victory slip away at home on Jan. 8 against Utah.
CU senior Josh Scott already dubbed Saturday night's rematch as a sort "payback" game. And while a loss against the surging Utes shouldn't diminish the Buffs' solid NCAA Tournament credentials heading into the Pac-12 Conference tournament next week in Las Vegas, CU certainly is eager to get a little revenge against the team that ruined what otherwise was a perfect home slate.
"We thought this year was the year we were going to be able to protect the home court, and Utah is the only team to come in here and beat us," George King said. "Obviously we wish we could have that one back. But, maybe we can go spoil Christmas for them over at their place like they did us. It would be nice to have some payback."
While CU has suffered through it share of disappointing finishes — late collapses against SMU and USC certainly spring to mind — the Buffs generally have responded well at home. The lone exception occurred the waning minutes of their previous tilt against the Utes.
CU built a nine-point lead midway through the second half and still led by seven with just under five and a half minutes to play when Utah rallied in a hurry. While the Buffs went just over four minutes without a field goal, two free throws by Jakob Poeltl and a 3-pointer from Lorenzo Bonam abruptly trimmed the Buffs' lead to two points.
A Poeltl layup gave the Utes the lead and capped a 9-0 run for Utah before King once again evened the score with 1:21 remaining. But a turnover from Josh Fortune with 25 seconds to go denied the Buffs an opportunity at launching a potential game-winner, and Bonam delivered a layup with two seconds remaining to hand CU what would prove to be its only home loss of the season.
Head coach Tad Boyle isn't a fan of the term "payback" but admits that loss is one his club hasn't forgotten.
"We weren't happy with the fact that they were the only team to beat us in our building. So yeah, we'd love to return the favor," Boyle said. "But I think revenge is for suckers. I've never been a revenge guy. It's just about 'Let's go into their building and try to do to them what they did to us.' It's not about payback or revenge. It's just about returning the favor."
Utah, which jumped a gaudy nine spots to No. 13 in this week's AP top 25 poll, also has been impressive at home, compiling a 15-1 record. The Utes' lone home loss occurred against Oregon in mid-January one game before the Ducks suffered a four-point loss in Boulder.
"They ruined our home streak," junior Tre'Shaun Fletcher said. "Second of all, that was one of the games that could've put us in a better position in our league. When we look back on the season, that's one of the games we talk about as one of the reasons why we didn't finish better in the league."