The Colorado Buffaloes hosted the No. 4 UCLA Bruins in Boulder on Thursday evening with high hopes of earning this season’s first win in Pac-12 Conference play. At halftime, with the Buffs down by just six points, 51-46, against one of the most impressive offensive units in the country, that ever elusive conference win seemed like a possibility.
But the Buffaloes’ dreams were quickly stomped on in the second half. Colorado was unable to halt the Bruins’ offensive rhythm, in particular that of UCLA guard Bryce Alford, and fell, 104-89.
It was a disappointing end result indeed, considering the solid student section and total crowd of 8,755 that came to cheer on the home team. With the loss, Colorado drops to 10-7 and is now 0-4 in Pac-12 play.
The loss leaves a bitter taste in the mouth for more than one reason. Colorado shot pretty well from the floor, making nearly 47 percent of its shots. The Buffs were also sound from long range, converting 42 percent of shots from behind the arc.
The Buffaloes had ample opportunities from the charity stripe in the game, taking 38 shots and making 27 of them.
But if the Buffs had a nice night from the floor, the Bruins were exemplary. UCLA was lethal in just about all offensive aspects of the game. As a team, the Bruins were averaging a 53 percent conversion rate from the floor on the year. Versus the Buffaloes on Thursday evening, the Bruins surpassed that, making nearly 57 percent of its shots.
“They do a great job with moving without the ball and moving the ball, and then when they get hot and get going, [there’s] nobody in the country that can guard them,” senior guard Derrick White said.
If UCLA was good from the floor, it was great from long range, making 19-of-31 three-pointers, good for a 61 percent success rate.
“[UCLA] is a terrific offensive basketball team, as good as as an offensive team as I’ve coached against at the collegiate level in 23 years,” head coach Tad Boyle said. “Our defense just wasn’t good enough tonight … I thought our guys battled and fought but just didn’t have any answer for Bryce Alford.”
Colorado felt the wrath of Alford all night long. UCLA’s senior scored 37 in the win and was unstoppable from long range, making 9-of-14 of his shots from beyond the arc.
Colorado’s key personnel pulled their weight. Senior guard/forward Xavier Johnson led the team with 21 points while White added 20.
Freshman guard Deleon Brown got his first collegiate start against UCLA, but was a non-factor. He scored just three points in 16 minutes on the court.
The Buffs trailed for a majority of the first half but fought hard, bouncing back from multiple six-point deficits, but were denied the chance to inch closer.
The beginning of the second half was unkind to CU. Within three minutes, and thanks in part to two threes sank by Alford, the Buffs found themselves down 61-49. The 18:31 mark in the final half marked the last time the Buffaloes would be within 10 points of the Bruins.
With a bit over 11 minutes remaining in the contest, UCLA had taken a 20-point lead, going up 82-62. Colorado attempted to hang around as well as it could, but UCLA was simply too effective from the floor for the Buffs to eat away at their deficit. With 5:45 left, the Buffaloes were down by 20 again, 95-75.
“They got going and it was hard to stop them,” junior guard George King, who scored 13 in the loss, said.
Colorado went on a 6-0 run in the final 2:32 of the game, but still lost to the Bruins by 15. CU was able to end the game with a slight edge in the rebounding department, snagging 34 boards compared to UCLA’s 28.
Johnson and senior forward Wesley Gordon were tied for the team lead with six rebounds apiece. Gordon added 12 points to the losing effort. Freshman guard Bryce Peters was aggressive in the game, scoring a career-high 11 points while going 3-of-4 from the floor.
“I’ve been here for seven years and every time I’m in here after a loss I’m usually pointing a finger at either myself or what we didn’t do,” Boyle said. “Tonight it was as much about what UCLA did. There are times in life where you have to tip your life to your opponent. They deserved to win.”
Up next for the Buffaloes is a home game vs. Southern California. The Buffs and Trojans will tipoff at 6:30 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.