Colorado men's basketball coach Tad Boyle made a rare bargain with his Buffaloes late last week.

Take care of business against Utah, he promised, and his players wouldn't be forced to touch a basketball for more than 48 hours.

The Buffs did their part on Friday night, beginning a critical three-game homestand by ending a seven-game losing streak against Utah with a solid 67-55 victory. CU was off Saturday and again Super Bowl Sunday but will reconvene Monday to begin preparations for the Pac-12 Conference's last-place team, Cal (9 p.m., ESPNU).

"You can't win three in a row unless you win the first one. Now it's you can't win three in a row unless you win the second one," Boyle said. "We've just got to take it as it goes. We started this journey August first. I made a deal with our guys, and I haven't done this since I've been here, but I made a deal after practice that if we took care of business (against Utah) we'd give them the next two days off. They responded.

"I think it's really important down the stretch that we are emotionally, mentally, physically ready to take on all the challenges that come in February and March. This is when you've got to raise your game up, so to speak. The execution has to get better. The toughness has to be there. I was really pleased with the way we played (Friday) in those areas."


Friday's win improved the Buffs to 13-10 and 5-6 in the Pac-12. It also provided a crucial turn of momentum after a three-game losing streak, albeit against three of the better teams in the league — two ranked foes on the road, Arizona and Arizona State, as well as Washington, which is making a strong push as an NCAA Tournament contender.

Despite the recent three-game slide, the Buffs seemingly are correcting some of the more glaring shortcomings that have stymied the team this season. After getting dominated on the glass by a Washington team that entered the contest ranked last in the league in rebounding margin, the Buffs have outrebounded their past three foes.

Additionally, after suffering a whopping 22 turnovers in a loss at USC on Jan. 10, the Buffs were averaging 15.4 turnovers per game. In the six games since, the Buffs have averaged just 11.2 turnovers, giving them four more scoring chances per game.

With just one game last week followed by a couple off-days, the Buffs hope to welcome back third-leading scorer Namon Wright, who missed the Utah game due to an illness. CU plays four of its final seven regular-season games at home and remains in solid position for a push toward an NIT berth or even NCAA tourney contention, though a win at Washington or an upset victory at home against USC likely will need to occur for that hope to gain traction.

"It's pivotal, because it kind of sets everything in motion for what we want to do," CU senior George King said. "Obviously we want to win these three games, and for us to get (Utah)...obviously we want to win all three games, but to get (Utah) is important. Now that we've got it, we've got to put it behind us and get ready for the next one."

Pat Rooney: or