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Buffs Rally To Collect Win At Cal

Feb 17, 2022

 

BERKELEY, Calif. — Colorado's Jabari Walker recorded his fifth straight double-double Thursday to spark a big second-half CU rally and the Buffaloes claimed a 70-62 win over Cal at Haas Pavilion.

Tad Boyle's Buffs won their fourth straight game to improve to 17-9 overall and 9-7 in Pac-12 play. The Bears fell to 11-16 and 4-12.

The Buffs trailed by seven at the half, 35-28, but used a pair of 14-1 runs after intermission to take control and the Bears never mounted a rally down the stretch.

Walker continued his outstanding February run with 19 points and a career-high tying 15 rebounds for his Pac-12 leading 14th double-double of the season. Walker was also a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line, his fourth straight game without a miss from the stripe, giving him 27 consecutive made free throws.

K.J. Simpson tallied a career-high 19 points and Evan Battey added 18 points and six boards for the Buffs.

Grant Anticevich and Jalen Celestine lead Cal with 11 points apiece.

After allowing the Bears to shoot 52 percent from the floor in the first half, Colorado held Cal to 25 percent shooting after intermission (8-for-32). That included a 2-for-19 start to fuel CU's decisive second-half runs.

The Buffs also held a 43-28 edge on the boards, including a 29-11 advantage after halftime, and Colorado finished a respectable 43 percent from the floor (22-for-51).

The Buffs also finished with just 10 turnovers, their lowest total in their last 19 games, and they hit 21 of 24 free throw attempts.

"A good win for us," said Boyle, whose Buffs presented him with his 250th win at Colorado. "I'm really pleased with the toughness we showed. Cal's a physical team. We had to be tougher and stronger and we played that way."

HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado trailed by seven at the half, 35-28, after Cal led by as much as 11 in the first half after shooting 52 percent from the floor (15-for-29).

The Buffs' defense — or lack thereof — proved to be the topic of Boyle's halftime address.

"He was on fire," Battey said. "It was all defense."

The message found its mark. CU forced seven consecutive Cal misses to start the second half, sparking a 14-1 run that gave CU a 42-36 lead less than four minutes in. Battey and Barthelemy both had five points in the surge while the Bears missed their first seven field goal attempts.

"We clawed our way back in by getting stops," Boyle said. "We adjusted in the second half and turned it around."

The Bears did manage to briefly pull back to within two before Colorado responded with another 14-1 run to build a 15-point cushion, 58-43, with 6:44 to play. Simpson and Walker each had five points in the run while Colorado's defense held Cal to 2-for-19 shooting over the first 14 minutes of the period.

The Buffs then maintained control down the stretch as Cal never came closer than eight again.

"We have a lot to play for," Battey said. "We have to realize that and play that way."

Walker was once again a big catalyst in CU's second-half comeback, tallying 13 of his points and nine rebounds in the second half. In five games in February, the Pac-12's leading rebounder is averaging 18.2 points and 13.2 rebounds per game.

He is now drawing comparisons to CU's elite rebounders of Boyle's previous teams, Andre Roberson and Tyler Bey.

"Jabari is an elite defensive rebounder," Boyle said. "We want to make him an elite offensive rebounder as well, but he's already pretty special."

 The first half didn't look promising for Colorado.

After an opening eight minutes that produced three lead changes, the Buffs gave up a 10-0 run that turned a 14-13 lead into a 23-14 deficit. Colorado missed nine straight field goal tries in the drought while the Bears hit five of six attempts.

The Bears then extended their cushion to 11 before the Buffs narrowed the lead to seven by halftime. K.J. Simpson scored five in a row for Colorado and Tristan da Silva hit two free throws in the final minute to pull Colorado to within 35-28 at intermission.

The Buffs finished the first half shooting just 40 percent (10-for-25) while allowing the Bears to hit 52 percent of their shots (15-for-29).

TURNING POINT: Colorado reeled off a 14-1 run to start the second half, turning a seven-point deficit into a six-point lead and the Buffs never trailed again.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs have won two in a row on this three-game road trip and have climbed back above .500 in league play. They are ostensibly playing their best basketball of the season — a good sign as they head down the final regular season stretch.

KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs held a 43-28 edge on the boards, including a 29-11 advantage after halftime … Colorado finished a respectable 43 percent from the floor (22-for-51) … The Buffs finished with just 10 turnovers, their lowest total in their last 19 games … CU hit  hit 21 of 24 free throw attempts … After allowing the Bears to shoot 52 percent from the floor in the first half, Colorado held Cal to 25 percent shooting after intermission (8-for-32), including a 2-for-19 start to fuel CU's decisive second-half runs.

QUOTEWORTHY: "It was a good win but we can't get drunk on our own wine. Now we have to figure out a way to beat Stanford on Saturday." CU head coach Tad Boyle

NEXT UP: The Buffs wrap up their three-game road trip Saturday with an 8 p.m. game at Stanford (ESPNU) before wrapping up their regular season home schedule with two games in Boulder next week. CU plays host to Arizona State on Thursday at 7 p.m. (Pac-12 Networks), then hosts Arizona on Saturday at 6 p.m. (ESPN2/U).

Contact: Neill.Woelk@Colorado.edu