The Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team suffered a rough end to their rough regular season Thursday night, as the No.7 Arizona Wildcats pulled away in the second half for a 92-78 victory. For the fourth time in five years, the Wildcats bounced the Buffaloes from the Pac-12 tournament.
CU had glimmers of hope in this game, but it became evident soon enough that they couldn’t compete with Arizona’s high-producing offense.
Colorado held its own in the first half, playing some effective zone defense and getting crucial stops when they needed to. Arizona nearly pulled away towards the end of the half, but a couple of big three-pointers from senior guards Josh Fortune and Derrick White kept the game close. The Buffs came close to having a lead at the half, but Arizona made one more bucket before the buzzer to go up 38-37. Down only one, the Buffs felt optimistic that they could hang with the highly-ranked Wildcats.
Colorado started the second half cold though, missing on five straight possessions. This allowed Arizona to get some separation, going up by as much as 13 points. The offensive rhythm just wasn’t there for the Buffs, as missed shots dug them into a deep hole. Some impressive defensive plays from White and junior guard George King helped finally stop the bleeding, as the Buffs briefly clawed back. The Arizona offense became too much to handle. Allonzo Trier and Lauri Markkanen lit up from behind the arc thanks to some beautiful ball movement and solid fundamentals. Markkanen went 4-for-7 from three and finished the game with 20 points. Rawle Alkins put on an offensive show as well, scoring 15 points.
Aside from White, the Buffs simply couldn’t match the energy and intensity of the Wildcats. The UCCS transfer tried valiantly to carry his team one more time, looking for open shots and making most of the them. Without a second option for scoring though, the Buffs struggled to cut the deficit when the Wildcats put two defenders on White. He finished the night with 31 points, six rebounds and five assists, another incredible performance wasted in a tough loss. It was a fitting end to a regular season in which White would regularly score over 20 points, but couldn’t get much help from his teammates.
Senior guard Xavier Johnson did hit some good shots though and contributed 20 points of his own.
With eight minutes left, the Buffs switched to a full court press, but it proved ineffective in slowing down the Arizona offense. The team kept its foot on the pedal and put the game out of reach.
For Colorado and its veteran roster, it was rough way to end what has been a very disappointing and frustrating season. With the loss, the Buffs will head back to Boulder and hope for a spot in the National Invitational Tournament.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, will advance to face either USC or UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals tomorrow night.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Kyle Rini at firstname.lastname@example.org.