In some ways, Arizona coach Sean Miller insists, the Wildcats are still the same confident, hardworking team he has seen in practice every day for a while now.
But Thursday, in a 71-57 win over Colorado, a nearly sold-out McKale Center and a national ESPN audience saw something different.
The Wildcats, who lost at home before national TV audiences last month to Oregon and Washington, had clear-cut roles while using just seven players. They had leaders, with Solomon Hill scoring 16 points and adding a career-high 14 rebounds. They had defense. They went to the free-throw line.
And they won a big conference game, at home, for the first time this season, moving into a third-place tie in the Pac-12 with an 8-4 conference record.
"It was good," Miller said. "I have a lot of anxiety before home games just because I haven't gotten that good feeling, that confident feeling that we established a year ago where you felt it was going to be really hard on our opponent just because we haven't played as well at McKale. But tonight we did. And the way we played tonight was very reminiscent of a lot of our good performances on the road."
The Wildcats (17-8 overall) didn't shoot particularly well, hitting just 3 of 16 three-pointers, but they out-rebounded Colorado 43-31 and took 21 more free throws than the Buffaloes, a margin Buffs coach Tad Boyle called "the difference in the game."
Mostly, though, the Wildcats out-defended Colorado in a well-played game that featured the Pac-12's two top defenses. Colorado (16-8, 8-4) shot just 37.3 percent from the field and hit 4 of 19 three-pointers, including just 1 of 9 in the second half.
Arizona also blocked five shots, equaled Colorado's 11 turnovers and scored four more second-chance points than the Buffaloes.
"It was a very hard-fought game with two very motivated teams," Miller said. "The effort level on both ends was as intense as any game we've had all year. Colorado has a really good team and a style that's difficult to play against."
The Buffaloes, who edged the Wildcats 64-63 last month in Boulder, put a scare into the Wildcats at the beginning of each half. Arizona had three turnovers in the first four minutes of the game, and trailed 7-4 early.
Then, after building a 34-28 lead with two significant first-half runs, Arizona was outscored 8-2 in the first 3:10 of the second half, allowing Colorado to tie the game at 36.
UA pulled ahead with a 10-3 run through the second half, taking a 51-42 lead with 8:27 left. At that point, the Buffaloes were shooting 6 of 18 from the field in the second half and missed all three three-pointers they took.
Colorado never cut it to less than a seven-point lead the rest of the way, and the game was never nearly as dramatic as UA's one-point loss in Boulder, where the Wildcats failed to score on their final possession.
The Colorado loss was one of three Pac-12 games UA lost by a total of five points, but Miller said the Wildcats aren't necessarily much different now, even though they have beaten California, Stanford and now Colorado in a row.
"We're developing more confidence, but one of the things I'm not going to get caught up in is we're not a completely different team," Miller said. "We've played some very good basketball. It's been very well documented that we've had a number of plays late in games not go our way … but there's not a whole lot of our games where you're going to say 'that was a disaster.' "
But where the Wildcats have changed, is not only in confidence, but also in more sharply defined roles.
"We're a lot more confident because guys know their roles," Hill said. "They know what they need to do every night and guys are doing it. There's no question in certain subjects. We're playing together on defense and we're clicking on offense."
Hill may be the Wildcats' primary example of a player who has grown into his role. Thrust into the spotlight this season without Derrick Williams around, Hill struggled early but has lately been the Wildcats' most consistent player.
He said his career-high 14 rebounds were in large part due to the Buffaloes' missed shots - 10 of Hill's rebounds were defensive - but Miller noted that Hill and Jesse Perry also excelled at blocking out and grabbing four offensive boards each.
Meanwhile, guard Kyle Fogg is averaging 17.3 points per game in the Wildcats' three-game win streak, shooting 4 of 9 from the field and hitting 6 of 7 free throws Thursday.
Fogg had just five points in UA's loss to Oregon and just seven against Washington, and he doesn't want to be that guy again.
"I'm finally starting to be consistent," Fogg said. "It's kind of a big part of our team."
• What: Utah at Arizona
• When: Noon, Saturday
• TV: FSAZ
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)