LOS ANGELES – Colorado battled gallantly for a half and a little bit beyond here Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion. But the second 20 minutes were all UCLA as the Bruins overran the Buffaloes 92-74, halting CU’s Pac-12 Conference winning streak at three.
Up 40-36 at halftime, CU was victimized by UCLA’s 3-point shooting in a dizzying 56-point Bruins second half. UCLA (19-5, 8-3) won for the fifth time in six games while CU (18-7, 7-5) lost for a fifth consecutive time to the Bruins and remains winless (0-6) in L.A.
“We weren’t good enough in the second half, obviously,” said CU coach Tad Boyle. “We knew at halftime that we were in the game because we were making shots – we were pretty efficient offensively. Our defense wasn’t good enough all night long, and you guys know it’s about defensive rebounding. When we hit those numbers that we did against Washington the results take care of themselves.”
But in most categories Thursday night, the Buffs lost the numbers game to the Bruins. UCLA finished the game 11-of-22 from beyond the arc, including 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) in the second half. The Bruins shot 56.5 percent from the field for the night while the Buffs finished at 45.9 percent. UCLA also won the board battle by 10 (37-27) and converted 12 CU turnovers into 15 points.
“UCLA just shot the lights out in the second half,” Boyle said. “They executed, we didn’t get stops when we had to, they shot the three-ball well, and our defense wasn’t good enough and we got out-rebounded by 10. UCLA is a good team, and they pose some matchup problems for us . . . but It hurts when you know you played good enough for 20 minutes to win a game, but we have to play for 40. Some of that credit goes towards UCLA, they’re a good basketball team and they played well tonight and they made shots.”
CU had four players in double figures, led by Josh Scott’s 20, while Askia Booker added 16 points and a career-high 12 assists for his first career double-double. Xavier Johnson contributed 14 points and nine rebounds, and Xavier Talton scored 10 points.
Five Bruins, meanwhile, reached double figures, topped by Kyle Anderson’s 22 points and a career-high 11 assists. Jordan Adams (17), Bryce Alford (14), Travis Wear (13) and Norman Powell (10) were UCLA’s other double-digit scorers – but Alford’s second-half productivity separated him from that quartet.
The son of UCLA coach Steve Alford hit 4-of-5 3-pointers – all in the second half – as the Bruins took control in the game’s final 20 minutes. Bryce Alford entered the game having hit only three treys in his last seven games – and all of those came two games ago at Oregon State.
“Kyle Anderson is terrific, and boy Bryce Alford in the second half . . . he was on fire and feeling it,” Boyle said. “That’s what happens, he was oh-fer in our building, I think 0-for-7, but he’s a good shooter, we know he’s a good shooter and you let a good shooter get hot and you’ve got problems. It’s disheartening because this was a winnable game. But I like the way our guys fought, I liked our competitive spirit."
For a second straight game, the Buffs were without redshirt freshman forward Wesley Gordon, who is still recuperating from ankle/knee injuries suffered when he slipped on ice last weekend. Also absent was true freshman Tre’Shaun Fletcher, who made the trip to L.A. but is not yet fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered at Washington last month.
UCLA, which last month handed CU its only home loss to date (69-56), opened by hitting six of its first nine shots and raced to a 13-5 lead. But the Buffs didn’t crumble; they responded with some of their crispest ball movement to date, launching a 25-7 run that put them up 28-10 with 8:27 left in the half.
During that surge, CU hit two of its four first-half 3-pointers – one by Johnson, the other by Booker, who finished with nine first-half points. The Buffs’ other pair of first-half treys were by Talton, who tied his seasonal high output for a half with those two. CU had made one 3-pointer in the first half of three of its previous Pac-12 road games. The Buffs finished with seven treys – their most in a road game this season.
The Buffs pushed their first-half lead as high as 12 (33-21) before the Bruins buckled down. A 13-3 run brought UCLA to within 36-34, but CU got a buzzer-beating dunk by Scott on an assist by Booker to take a 40-36 lead at intermission. Scott finished the half with 13 points as CU shot 55.2 percent from the field – its second-best mark in a league game this season – with a first-half high 10 assists (17 for the night).
With 48 first-half points in last Sunday’s 91-65 blowout of Washington, CU’s 40 points in the first 20 minutes Thursday night marked the Buffs’ most productive first halves of Pac-12 play this season. But the second half awaited, and no one believed the Bruins would roll over.
They didn’t. After tying the score at 45-45 on a basket by Adams and at 48-48 on 3-pointer by Travis Wear, they took their first lead since 15-13 on a conventional three-point play by Adams, going up 55-53 with 13:12 to play.
Then back-to-back 3-pointers by Bryce Alford shot UCLA ahead 61-53 – and after that 9-0 run, CU looked to be reeling. Alford made sure of it, draining his third trey of the second half’s first 10 minutes and sending the Bruins back to the first of two double-digit leads (68-58).
When CU crept to within seven points, Alford hit his fourth triple and UCLA regained its 10-point advantage (76-66). A three-point play by Scott brought the Buffs to within 76-71 with 6:35 remaining but they came no closer. The Bruins stretched their lead to 18 (92-74) in the final 2 minutes.
CU plays at USC on Sunday (6 p.m. MT, ESPNU) hoping to salvage a split on its West Coast trip, and Boyle underscored that game’s importance. “It is, no question (important),” he said. “We have to have a short memory but I don’t want us to put this behind us and forget about it, we’re going to learn from it, we’re going to watch some film, but we have got to bounce back.
“And again, our guys fight and they scratch and they claw and I thought we did tonight. We didn’t get beat because of lack of effort, we got beat because we played a good basketball team that executed better than we did. But, it’s important that we bounce back. USC is hungry right now and they are playing better than their record. We’re going to run into a better team than we saw in the Coors Events Center a few weeks ago and we know that.”