What went right: The Buffs kept their composure through early adversity, shot the ball well in the final 34 minutes and posted a season-low eight turnovers. CU started 0-for-16 from the floor, but made 28-of-57 (49.1 percent) the rest of the way.
What went wrong: A terrible start put the Buffs in a big hole. They also got out-rebounded (49-42) and gave up 14 second-chance points to the Utes.
Star of the game: Kennedy Leonard. She tied her career high with 31 points, while also dishing eight assists.
What's next: CU hosts Utah on Sunday at Noon at Coors Events Center.
Prior to Thursday's game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Colorado women's basketball coach JR Payne wrote a quote on the board for her team.
"Adversity is opportunity in disguise," it read.
The opportunity was barely recognizable five and a half minutes into the game when the Buffaloes were down 16 points. The Buffs found it, however, and stormed back for a much-needed victory, 69-65 against host Utah.
Junior point guard Kennedy Leonard led the Buffs a career high-tying 31 points, with 21 of those in the second half.
"It feels great, but what feels better is that we got a win," Leonard said. "Yeah, scoring is cool, but to be honest, I'd rather win any night than score 31 points."
Early on, it didn't appear either would happen. Riding a six-game losing streak coming into the night, the Buffs (12-10, 3-8 Pac-12) were down 16-0 after just 5 minutes, 23 seconds of play.
"(The quote from Payne) was really fitting for the beginning of the game," Leonard said. "For us to rely on that and know that no matter what happens ... if we keep chipping away and we keep on relying on each other rather than turning on each other, good things will happen, and luckily it did happen tonight."
After missing their first 16 shots in digging the 16-point hole, the Buffs called a timeout and then stormed back with a 12-0 run.
More adversity hit in the second half, when Utah (14-8, 5-6) stretched the lead to 38-27. And, with 4:40 to play in the third, the Utes were still up by nine, 44-35.
Leonard then sparked a 14-0 run that gave CU its first lead of the game, and they never trailed again. Leonard seemingly put the Buffs on her back in the second half.
"I'm the point guard and in a lot of ways I'm the heart of the team," said Leonard, who added eight assists. "Obviously the ball is in my hands a lot, so it's time to get a score and we ran a lot of plays that luckily freed me up to the basket. When I'm being aggressive I can find my teammates."
One of those teammates was Brecca Thomas, who scored 13 points off the bench. The Buffs were an impressive plus-23 in her 16 minutes on the court.
With Leonard and Thomas leading the way, CU got itself back in the win column heading into the stretch run of the season.
"Finally getting over that hump feels really, really big," Leonard said. "I think it will help us a lot in the month of February. It's going to be a huge month for us, I hope, and hopefully we use this game as a catalyst for us the rest of the season."
The Buffs had a season-low eight turnovers, the first time they've been in single digits since Feb. 17, 2017, vs. Oregon State. ... In addition to tying her career high in points, Leonard had career highs in field goals made (12) and attempted (24). ... Leonard moved into 18th on CU's career scoring list, with 1,264 points. She passed Jamee Swan and Crystal Ford on the list Thursday.
Colorado 69, Utah 65
COLORADO (12-10, 3-8 Pac-12)
Caylao-Do 2-4 0-0 4, Robinson 1-9 1-2 4, Leonard 12-24 5-5 31, Correal 2-4 0-0 4, Jank 3-15 0-0 7, Thomas 6-9 0-1 13, Hollingshed 1-5 0-0 3, Knight 1-3 1-2 3. Totals 28-73 7-10 69.
UTAH (14-8, 5-6)
Williams 2-7 0-0 5, Huff 8-14 2-3 18, Bean 2-9 0-0 5, Potter 6-16 2-3 14, Provo 4-9 6-8 15, Moore 0-2 0-0 0, Jacobs 0-2 2-2 2, Clark 1-2 2-2 4, Corbin 0-0 0-0 0, Boclair 0-3 2-2 2. Totals 23-64 16-20 65..
Score by quarters:Colorado 14 13 22 20 — 69
Utah 20 13 14 18 — 65
3-point goals — Colorado 6-13 (Leonard 2-2, Robinson 1-5, Jank 1-3, Hollingshed 1-2, Thomas 1-1), Utah 3-14 (Williams 1-4, Bean 1-4, Provo 1-2, Huff 0-2, Moore 0-1, Jacobs 0-1). Rebounds — Colorado 42 (Jank 9), Utah 49 (Huff 13). Assists — Colorado 11 (Leonard 8), Utah 8 (Bean 4). Steals — Colorado 7 (Leonard, Knight 2), Utah 4 (Bean 2). Turnovers — Colorado 8, Utah 14. Total fouls — Colorado 19, Utah 14. Fouled out — None. A — 1,812.