Boyle Says Buffs Must Match Bruins' Toughness In Saturday Tilt
BOULDER — In their last three meetings, the Colorado Buffaloes and UCLA Bruins have played down to the wire.
Unfortunately for the Buffs, the Bruins came out on top in all three, making plays down the stretch that made the difference in the game.
CU will try to end that trend Saturday at the CU Events Center when the Buffs (18-7 overall, 12-6 Pac-12) play host to UCLA (17-5, 13-3) in an 8 p.m. game (ESPN2).
According to Buffs coach Tad Boyle, the difference in all three games hasn't been difficult to discern.
"The biggest reason is their toughness and their ability to make plays down the stretch," Boyle said. "To me that's what makes UCLA who they are since (coach) Mick Cronin has gotten there. Their toughness level has gone to an elite level and that's why they've won a lot of close games. They've been able to make plays down the stretch and they have a great toughness about them."
CU assistant coach Bill Grier did a little research this week to back up Boyle's point. Grier found that in the last three games, the Bruins have come up with more than twice as many "50-50" balls as the Buffaloes.
"The 50-50 balls — the ones that can go either way — 25 have gone to UCLA, 12 have gone to CU," Boyle said. "That tells me they're tougher, tells me they're more aggressive, they want the ball more than we want the ball — and that has to change."
Indeed, the Buffs have had their chances against the Bruins. In their first meeting this year, Colorado had two chances to tie the game in the final seconds, only to see a pair of 3-point tries miss the mark in a 65-62 loss in early January.
Perhaps even more painful to remember is last year's game in Boulder. Colorado led by nine eight minutes into the second half, only to give up a 20-3 UCLA run that ultimately led to a 70-63 loss.
"That's really what it comes down to with these games against UCLA," Boyle said. "Not that they've blown us out. We had a commanding lead last year in this building but we weren't tough enough with the ball. We have to be the tougher team, or at the very least match their toughness."
The good news for the Buffs is that they are coming off one of their more dominating physical performances of the season, an 80-62 victory over USC on Thursday. The Buffs not only shot the ball well on offense, but also played tenacious, physical defense that stymied the Trojans all night.
"Toughness, energy, effort," Boyle said. "We don't want to play to foul — we want to play without fouling. But we want to make everything they get something that they earned and nothing that we've given them because we broke down and gave them a dunk or didn't tag on a ball screen or we didn't execute defensively the game plan."
After losing three of four in late January and early February, the Bruins have bounced back to win their last four, including Thursday night's 76-61 victory at Utah that moved them back atop the Pac-12 standings.
UCLA boasts a balanced attack, with four players averaging double-figure scoring. Sophomore guard Johnny Juzang leads the Bruins with a 14.0 scoring average, followed by fellow guards Jaime Jaquez (12.0 ppg) and Tyger Campell (10.9), and big man Cody Riley (10.5).
The Bruins aren't particularly flashy in any area, but are competent across the board. They are second in the Pac-12 in fewest turnovers, averaging less than 11 per game, and they are allowing just 67.4 points per game.
"They've been able to make plays down the stretch and they have a great toughness about them," Boyle said. "They present a lot of problems because they've got good players. But we have pretty good players too. We have to match their toughness, match their intensity, much like USC. We'd better guard, we'd better rebound, we'd better play with toughness."
SENIOR NIGHT: The Buffs will honor seven seniors after the game. The list includes Maddox Daniels, D'Shawn Schwartz, Alexander Strating, Dallas Walton, McKinley Wright IV, Jeriah Horne and Aidan McQuade.
BUFFS BITS: CU's 12 conference wins are the most in the Pac-12 era, surpassing the 11-7 mark of the 2011-12 team that went on to win the conference tournament title. It's the most conference wins for the Buffaloes since the 1961-62 Big Eight Conference championship team went 13-1. CU's five conference road wins are also the most since the 1961-62 Buffs, who were 6-1 on the road …
Colorado still leads the nation in free throw shooting at 83.1 percent, making 349 of 420 attempts. The Buffaloes tied their season best by hitting 14 of 15 against USC (.933) and have hit 41 of 46 over the last three (.891). Colorado has shot 80 percent or better in 17
games and at least 90 percent in five … Along with owning the Pac-12's top spot in free throw percentage, the Buffaloes top the conference in scoring defense (63.1 ppg) and scoring margin (+10.7). Colorado has held its opponents under 70 points in three straight, five of the last six and seven of the last 10 contests.
THE SERIES: This will be the 21st meeting between Colorado and UCLA, with the Bruins holding a 14-6 advantage. UCLA has won the last three, including a 65-62 decision in Los Angeles on Jan. 2. The series is tied at 4-4 in Boulder.
BROADCAST: The game will be televised by ESPN2 with David Feldman and Corey Williams. KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM will carry the radio broadcast with Mark Johnson and Scott Wilke.