It was another head-scratching night for the Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team (16-6, 10-5 Pac-12) as they lost to the California Golden Bears (8-15, 3-13 Pac-12) 71-62 in Berkeley Saturday night.
After trailing for much of the game, Colorado had only two made field goals in the last seven minutes and had trouble limiting the Cal offense all night.
Defensively, the Buffaloes never got their footing in the game. Cal shot 40% from the floor. They were led by junior guard Matt Bradley, who was a thorn in the side of the Buffaloes for the second straight season at the Haas Pavilion. He scored 26 points a year ago against the Buffs (a 76-62 win for Cal) and had a team-leading 27 points on Saturday.
“Matt Bradley was the difference in the game,” Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said. “He was the player of the game without a doubt.”
Bradley did not play in the Buffs’ 89-60 victory over the Golden Bears in Boulder on Jan. 14 but made his impact felt right from the get-go. His versatility helped Cal move the ball, which caused problems for the Buffs’ defense.
CU’s offense faced struggles in the first half, as senior guard McKinley Wright IV was forced to the bench with two fouls. While the offense kept the game competitive, they looked out of sync when Wright was out of the game.
Wright had 13 points on 3-of-11 shooting with two assists. His two rebounds in the game got him to 600 career rebounds, becoming the first player in Pac-12 history to have 1,600 points, 600 rebounds and 600 assists.
Despite finally getting the landmark rebound with just over one minute remaining in the game, the loss was at the top of his mind.
“We got to execute better (as a team),” Wright said. “We got to stop playing down to our competition.”
The Buffaloes now have a trio of disappointing losses with the others being a road letdown at Washington and a loss at home versus Utah. Cal, Washington and Utah have a combined record of 11-32 in Pac-12 play. A regular season conference championship may have been a possibility, but after another loss in a game, Boyle said CU “should have won,” that may be out of reach for the Buffs.
California shot 28 free throws in the game. The Buffaloes’ foul trouble contributed to them not being able to get a consistent flow on both sides of the basketball.
“Fouling a team and putting them at the line 28 times is not who we are,” Boyle said.
Colorado itself went 15-of-21 (71.4%) from the free-throw line in the game. While this may not necessarily be a bad stat line, Boyle pointed out how it is below where the Buffs have consistently been from the line this season. Similar to the loss at Washington on Jan. 20, Colorado struggled to shoot the three, making just 3-of-15.
Following CU’s defeat of Stanford on Feb. 11, Boyle said that great teams are able to sweep a two-game set on the road in Pac-12 play while good teams are only able to split. The loss dropped the Buffs NET rating from 12 to 19 but they will have another chance to prove they are a great team by sweeping an upcoming road set against Oregon on Feb. 18 and Oregon State on Feb. 20.
Saturday’s loss was reminiscent of last year’s loss to Cal when the Buffs teetered off before the season ultimately ended due to COVID-19. While the circumstances were different last year, the Buffs need to gain momentum as the regular season draws to a close if they want to be successful in the postseason. Boyle said he is going to focus on the Buffs getting better and improving on both sides of the basketball.
“We just got to win our next game (against Oregon),” Boyle said.
Contact CU Independent staff writer Eric Bean at email@example.com.