After trailing 34-32 at the end of the first half, Colorado outscored San Francisco 40-21 over the next 20 minutes to win their third consecutive contest, 72-55.
"I think our guys' intensity got a little bit better, and I think San Francisco wore down," said head coach Tad Boyle.
Xavier Johnson sat Wednesday night's game with a hamstring injury, forcing Boyle to use his fourth different starting lineup of the young season. Sophomore Tre'Shaun Fletcher got his second career start in Johnson's stead.
The Buffs jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but by the 12:39 mark, USF had countered with a 9-2 run to tie the game at nine.
CU's occasionally spotty perimeter defense reared its head again, as San Francisco nailed six three-pointers in the first half. The Dons also showed a desire to run with the Buffs in Boulder - and unlike a November matchup with Auburn - it paid off. San Francisco beat Colorado down the floor on several occasions in the first half, even off of missed free throws, finishing high-percentage looks when they got the chance, and sucking the defense in and kicking out to open shooters.
"That's the kind of stuff that makes me lose my hair - and what's left is grey," said Boyle on his team's poor transition defense. "There's no excuse for that."
San Francisco led by as many as ten points in the first half, but a strong defensive stretch in the final four minutes of the first half allowed Colorado to close within two points heading into the locker room. After Matt Christiansen's jumper at the 4:07 mark, CU held the Dons scoreless for the remainder of the first half.
"That was key, because they were scoring at will, and were kind of starting to feel it from three, and got some layups." Boyle said. "We cut it to two, which was big, I think."
On Sunday afternoon, Colorado let its poor play at the end of the first half seep into their second half performance. Wednesday night, Colorado's defense at the conclusion of the first half translated into the second half. Colorado held the Dons to 40 percent from the field, and 14.3 percent from the three.
Once Askia Booker caught fire in the second half, the outcome was never in much doubt, even though the Colorado lead was only in single digits for much of the second half. Booker tallied his first 20-point game of the season, scoring 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting.
"That's the guy we see in practice every day," said Boyle. "His teammates know how good he is, his coaches know how good he is, and he knows how good he is."
Josh Scott also finished in double figures, adding 12 points on 3-for-6 from the field. CU shared the ball well, recording 15 assists on 27 baskets, with only eight turnovers. Nine CU players scored, and eight scored five points or more.
Colorado takes to the road for the second time this season, traveling to SEC territory to face Georgia on Sunday.