Buffs Struggle At Cal, Fall To Bears
BERKELEY, Calif. — Colorado struggled on the offensive end all night and the Buffaloes couldn't come up with key defensive stops down the stretch Saturday as the Buffaloes dropped a 71-62 decision to Cal at Haas Pavilion.
The Buffs fell to 16-6 overall and 10-5 in Pac-12 play while seeing their three-game win streak come to an end. The Bears, who prevented CU from gaining a Bay Area road trip sweep, improved to 8-15 and 3-13.
McKinley Wright IV led CU with 13 points and also collected his 600th career rebound, making him the first player in Pac-12 history with 1,600 points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds. Eli Parquet added 10 points for CU and Jeriah Horne had eight points and 12 rebounds.
Matt Bradley, who did not play in an 89-60 Colorado victory in mid-January in Boulder, led Cal with 29 points.
The Buffs shot just 40 percent for the game, including just 3-for-15 from 3-point range. Cal also shot only 40 percent, but the Bears hit 20 of 28 free throws while CU was 15-for-21 from the line. The Bears hit seven 3-pointers.
CU also had a season-low five assists — only their second time in single digits all season — while the Bears' 28 free throws were the most by a Buffs opponent this year.
"This one stings," CU coach Tad Boyle said. "We talked about in the pregame, Cal is a team that's playing better. They're a helluva lot better than their record, I can tell you that. With that being said, this is a game we should have won, but we weren't good enough tonight. We weren't good enough defensively and we weren't good enough offensively. When you put those two things together, it's hard to win in any league."
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado trailed 36-33 after a first half that featured 10 lead changes, but quickly seized the lead with a 5-0 burst to start the second half on an Evan Battey basket and Parquet 3-pointer.
But the Bears quickly regained the edge with a 12-4 run and the Buffs could never completely close the gap again. Even when Cal endured a seven-minute stretch without a field goal, the Bears managed to hold CU at bay by hitting free throws and forcing empty Buffs possessions.
"We did a lot of standing around," Wright said. "The coaches had the perfect scouting report and we just didn't execute."
Colorado pulled to within one, 50-49, on a Wright three-point play with 10:45 remaining, but Cal again answered, building a seven-point lead — its biggest of the game — with 3:36 to play.
The Buffs then managed to shave the deficit down to two at a couple junctures in the final minutes. Wright hit two free throws with 1:02 on the clock to pull CU to within 62-60, but Bradley then delivered a dagger 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining to give Cal a 65-60 lead.
The Buffs then missed a 3-pointer on their next possession and Cal hit free throws in the final seconds to sew up the win.
"We had some good looks tonight that didn't go in," Boyle said. "We just couldn't make shots … I felt like I over-coached a little in the second half with our offense. We wanted to try to get it all back at once. Five assists on 22 baskets is not the way we have been good. It's something we have to address and talk about."
The loss puts a huge damper on CU's league title hopes, as the Buffs dropped into fourth in the league standings and trail league-leading USC by three games in the loss column.
The defeat was also the second to a team at the bottom of the standings, as the Buffs dropped a decision to Washington earlier this season. Colorado is now 5-2 against teams in the top half of the standings and 5-3 against teams in the bottom half.
"It gives us our fifth loss and we're back in the pack," Boyle said. "I thought we had a chance to compete for a championship. We just have to figure out how to win our next one. Three of our next four games are against NCAA Tournament teams. We're actually pretty good against those kinds of teams. Teams in the bottom half of our league, we haven't been very good."
In a see-saw first half, Colorado had a four-point lead with 2:21 remaining, but the Bears closed the period with a 9-2 run to leave the Buffs trailing by three at intermission.
TURNING POINT: Colorado threatened to seize momentum early in the second half, jumping out with five straight points to take a 38-36 lead. But the Bears answered with a 12-4 run and CU never regained the lead.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs' hopes of a conference title took a big hit with the loss and they now face two more tough road games next week. Still, a top-four finish is within their grasp.
KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs finished with a season-low five assists and shot just 3-for-15 from 3-point range … The Bears shot 28 free throws, the most by a CU opponent this year, and made 21 … Colorado — the nation's leading free throw shooting team — also shot just 71.4 percent from the line (15-for-21), matching CU's season low.
NEXT UP: The Buffs hit the road again next week for a pair, beginning with a 9 p.m. (MT) game Thursday at Oregon (ESPN2), followed by a Feb. 20 contest at Oregon State (6 p.m., ESPNU).