Going into Thursday night’s game against the University California, the 11-11 University of Colorado men’s basketball team knew it needed a win, and desperately. But, after a game-ending battle, the Golden Bears prevailed in a 68-61 heartbreak for the Buffaloes.
“Tough loss for our guys, there’s no doubt about it,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “After what went through last weekend—I thought we had a good week of practice, that we were prepared—and the bottom line is I think in a game like this is we didn’t play well enough in the second half to win this game, both offensively and defensively.”
With the loss, the Buffs fall 11-12 on the season, making this the worst season in the Boyle era thus far.
With 45 seconds left on the clock, CU finished a 13-5 run to overcome a huge deficit and pull within two points, 63-61. In the end it wasn’t enough to get the “W.”
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” sophomore forward Jaron Hopkins said. “Once we’ve played a full, 40-minute game together and we’re playing good offensively like we did in the Washington State game and the USC game when we were here as well. When we put together games like that against tough teams, I think we can win those games.”
For the night, the Buffs couldn’t get much of anything going on offense. They shot 36.7 percent from the field goal range for the entire game and fared even worse from behind the arc at 30 percent.
The Bears performed a little better, making 41.8 percent of their field goals and 45.5 percent of their threes. But that’s not to say the ball-handling wasn’t ugly, as both teams turned the ball over a total of 22 times.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well, again, myself included,” junior forward Josh Scott said. “It’s not one thing or another, but we’re going to fix that. We’re learning, and it’s given us stuff that we work towards to just get better every day.”
On the Colorado side of the ball, Scott led the Buffaloes with 17 points and eight rebounds, followed by senior guard Askia Booker who contributed 11 points and two boards. Cal, on the other hand, had three scorers in double-digits, with Jordan Mathews leading all scorers at 19.
“We couldn’t finish at the rim, we couldn’t finish when we needed to, and Cal made plays down the stretch,” head coach Tad Boyle explained after the fact.
The first half of Thursday night’s game was sloppy, to say the least. Going in, the Buffs knew this game was their prime chance at a rebound from Saturday’s loss at Utah, and though they fought throughout much of the half, the fight wasn’t pretty all.
Throughout the first 20 minutes of play, the Buffs and Bears enjoyed tight competition with four tie scores and six lead changes, but suffered from abysmal offensive numbers and numerous turnovers.
No matter how hard they tried, the Buffs couldn’t gain a notable edge on the Bears at all. The story was different for California, however, who led by as much as seven points with five minutes left in the half.
Not ones to give in so easily at home, the Buffs finished out the half on an 11-5 run to cut the deficit to just one at the half, 28-27.
For the first half, the Buffs died on offense. They only managed 32.1 percent from the field while only making a quarter of their three-point attempts. Cal had a little more success, but not much. They shot 38.5 percent from the field while sinking half of their threes.
Out of the gate, the second half wasn’t much better. Midway through the last portion of the game, Cal led by as much as 11 points, 50-39, before the Buffs were able to respond. And respond they did, with a nice seven-point unanswered run.
But, as has happened numerous times throughout the season, that run was short-lived. The Golden Bears topped the Buffs by 10 points several more times before the Buffs made it exciting again.
After the score read 58-48 with 5:38 left in the game, the Buffs shut out the next four minutes on a 13-5 run. But it wasn’t enough to save them from heartbreak.
Though Colorado was able to pull within a field goal of the Bears with less than a minute left, sloppy ball handling and lack of efficient defense in the final seconds ultimately did them in as they fell 68-61 in their 12th loss of the season.
The Buffs return to the court on Sunday, Feb 15 to take on the Stanford Cardinal at 2:00 p.m. with the hopes of a turnaround.
“We’re not going to stop believing,” Hopkins said. “We’re just going to get back to practice, keep a positive attitude, try our best, and hopefully get some wins in our next few games.”
Contact CU Independent Basketball Writer Alissa Noe at firstname.lastname@example.org.