Boyle made certain his team concentrated on both halves this time. His pep talk at the intermission of Tuesday’s conference game versus Iowa State (14-9, 1-7 Big 12) proved to be identical to his speech the last time around.
“We talked about the same things we talked about at halftime in Waco,” Boyle said. “We talked about the score being 0-0 and that it is a new half and we want to win it.”
The Buffs did just that, outdoing Iowa State 95-69 at the Coors Events Center on Feb. 1, improving their record to 15-8 with a 4-4 mark in the Big 12.
January ended harshly for CU with four straight losses. If a stat line of shooting 50 percent, out-rebounding the Cyclones by 13 and delving out 21 assists is any indication, February should be a better month for the Buffs.
CU never let Iowa State get within reach in the second half, and held a 31-point advantage with 11:50 to play.
“We were making plays for each other rather than just making plays for ourselves,” Boyle said.
Six different players made a shot from behind the arc, with Levi Knutson and Marcus Relphorde leading the parade of triples with three a piece.
Both teams entered on a pair of four-game losing skids. It was the Buffs who emphatically refused another loss, turning away Iowa State with desperate intensity.
“We needed to get back on track,” said Knutson, who finished with 15 points. “This was kind of a must-win for us to get back in the thick of things in the Big 12.”
Sophomore Alec Burks showed off his talent with 19 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, posting his second double-double of the season. The 6-foot-6-inch guard is currently sitting second among the Big 12’s scoring leaders.
Burks took advantage of Iowa State’s defense with a feast of easy layups and a healthy portion of fine passing, including a no-look pass to set up a Relphorde dunk.
Boyle said Burks’ physicality is improving.
“He just made a conscious effort (to be more physical),” Boyle said. “You can see him going to the boards, the offensive boards, and he is just going after rebounds.”
A 15th win matches last year’s total win count with the second half of conference games still remaining.
The improvement from last season’s early-ended campaign is apparent in nearly every statistical line. They are scoring more, shooting better and turning the ball over less than they did under former Coach Jeff Bzdelik.
Against Iowa State, the Buffs primarily did their work on three separate scoring runs that combined for a 55-3 advantage over those periods. They blanketed the Cyclones with a 16-0 run and a 17-0 run in the first half, then a 22-3 spurt in the next half.
“Whenever we got stops, we had a chance to get easy buckets in transition because they didn’t get back very well,” said senior Cory Higgins.
Higgins tied a school record with his 116th start on Tuesday night. Throughout his career in Boulder, Higgins has never been on a team this successful.
After consecutive wins in their first three Big 12 games, the Buffs have climbed back to .500 in the conference, but Higgins said he is not content.
“I just feel okay with it,” Higgins said of his team’s standing in the Big 12. “I feel that we were supposed to be a lot better. We’re not satisfied but it’s a good starting point.”
Following the two-week string of defeat, reporters wondered whether Boyle’s Buffs could remember how to win again.
“We haven’t lost confidence in ourselves,” Boyle said. “We didn’t get too full of ourselves when we won the first three [conference games], and we certainly didn’t get down on ourselves when we lost four in a row”
The Buffs hit the road again Saturday, when they will take on the Missouri Tigers in Columbia at 5:30 p.m.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Michael Krumholtz at Michael.email@example.com.