2014 Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament second round: Colorado grabs win over California
LAS VEGAS – A back-and-forth battle of backcourt duos between the No. 5 seed Colorado Buffaloes and the No. 4 seed California Golden Bears made for a close game, but it was the CU defense that eventually locked in to secure a 59-56 victory in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament Thursday at the MGM Grand Arena.
“It's a mentality,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “They got good players. They make tough shots. We just wanted to make them earn everything. We still gave up a few too many layups, but we got stops when we needed stops.”
With the win Tad Boyle's fourth-seeded Buffs advanced to the Tournament's semifinals, where they will play No. 1 Arizona on Friday at 6 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Networks.
On Thursday, neither team had the momentum or the advantage for long. It came down to a final few plays with Colorado leading 56-54 and 23 seconds remaining. Cal guard Justin Cobbs missed a jumper with 15 seconds left – a similar shot to the game-winner against then-undefeated Arizona on Feb. 1 – and then couldn't connect on a three-pointer at the buzzer to tie it.
Colorado's Askia Booker led his team to a win with 17 points on 7-for-15 shooting, while sophomore Xavier Talton added 13 thanks to shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range. Cobbs led Cal with 21 points and five assists.
Tyrone Wallace added 13 points and forward Richard Solomon pulled down 16 rebounds. The Golden Bears couldn't get over the hump offensively nor hit the timely shots that would have forced overtime.
[Related video: Colorado's Askia Booker on the secrets to being clutch]
“Colorado and ourselves are pretty even,” Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. “The things that you don't do and the things you know you struggle a little bit come back to hurt you.”
A dunk by Colorado freshman Jaron Hopkins gave the Buffs a 21-10 lead midway through the first half, but two quick threes by Wallace and Cobbs brought the Golden Bears within two possessions, although briefly. An ensuing 8-0 run by the Buffaloes strung their lead back out, and CU went into halftime with a 31-22 advantage.
Montgomery was disappointed in his team's effort in the first half, adding he felt as if the Golden Bears were back on their heels. On the other sideline, Boyle said he could tell his team was locked in from the onset.
“You could tell from the start that our players really wanted this game, they had this intensity about them that was pretty evident,” the CU coach said.
Neither team shot all that well in the first half with the Buffs shooting 43 percent and the Golden Bears hitting 39 percent from the floor. Offensively, California's lack of pure shooters or an inside post presence such as CU center Josh Scott gave Colorado a slight advantage, Montgomery said. Most of all, he was disappointed his team didn't make the winning plays that Colorado had preached in its locker room heading into the battle.
“When we give up 59 points, I don't know how much defensively better we can play,” Montgomery said. “We've had problems all year long being able to score the ball.
“We don't have the luxury of trying to outscore people.”
A few runs in the second half represented the back-and-forth complexion of the game as a whole.
The Golden Bears made a push here and there, but Talton and Booker traded shifts in hitting timely buckets.
After Cal hit two threes to start the second half strong, the Buffs' starting backcourt responded by scoring the next 11 points for their team. By that point, the Colorado frontcourt began carrying more weight, especially Xavier Johnson, who finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
[Related video: Buffs' Tad Boyle on the little things that keyed success]
Colorado led 47-37 with 11:39 left in the game, but that's when the Golden Bears began pushing the pace.
Wallace and the Bears weren't done yet, and they had their answer to the Buffs' hot start to the second half. Coach Mike Montgomery's physical backcourt duo combined to score the final 19 points of the game, which wasn't quite enough to hold off a more balanced Buffaloes attack that, along with the backcourt duo of Booker and Talton, included center Josh Scott's 11 points.
“Games like that, when teams are pretty even, you have to make plays at critical times,” Montgomery said.