Tristan Da Silva played a key role in the Buff’s 59-46 win against the Cal Golden Bears on Thursday, Feb. 2, at the CU Events Center. Da Silva helped Colorado (13-11 overall and 5-8 in conference play) rally against Cal (3-19 overall and 2-9 in conference play), finally giving the team a win after a couple of tough losses in Oregon last week.
Overall, Da Silva scored 20 points, 17 of which came during the second half. This is the fourth consecutive game in which Da Silva has scored 20 or more points and the ninth game overall this season. The junior forward went on a 12-point scoring effort early in the second half, giving Colorado the upper hand to defeat the Golden Bears.
“Tristan has been playing at such a high level [over the past] three weeks,” said head coach Tad Boyle. “Earlier in the league play, he had his ups and downs, and he had his inconsistencies so to speak. Lately, he’s been playing at a pretty high level.”
This win shows the team’s improvement since their last face-off against the Golden Bears in Berkeley, Calif. on Dec. 31, 2022. For that match, the Buffs lost 80-76, giving Cal their first Pac-12 win of the season.
On Thursday, the game started slowly with low scoring for the first 10 minutes. By the 10-minute mark, Cal led 13-6. Colorado’s only scores came from KJ Simpson, Da Silva and Jalen Gabbidon. As the half continued, Colorado worked to reduce the Golden Bear’s lead. At one point, Javon Ruffin scored two free throws off of a foul on a steal, shaving the lead margin to three.
However, Cal continued to rack up buckets, extending their lead to 10 with 2:38 left in the half. In a final push to gain the lead, the Buffs put up a 7-0 scoring run, though this wasn’t enough to outscore the Golden Bears. Heading into the second half, Colorado trailed by three points, 27-24.
“I don’t think it was that bad to be honest,” Da Silva said. “We just didn’t make shots. We had a couple of really good looks, but we just couldn’t convert them. The offense came and went. We still played really good defense to keep us in the game, even though that was one of our worst halves of the year offensively.”
The Buffs struggled offensively, as shown by the game’s statistics. Colorado had a 25% completion for field goals (6-for-24) and 18% completion outside the arc (2-for-11). Yet, the Buffaloes excelled at the foul line, shooting almost 77% and going 10-for-13. Also, Colorado managed to pull out free throws when they mattered the most.
Coming out of the locker rooms for the second half, the Buffs did not look rattled. Cal’s Grant Newell briefly interrupted Colorado’s run with a layup, but Da Silva stayed locked in. After only about six minutes, he put up 12 points for the Buffs. Thanks to consistent free throws and three pointers from Da Silva, Colorado now pulled into the lead, 36-34.
“I got some easy looks,” Da Silva said. “I felt like maybe they left me open a little bit more because I wasn’t playing so well in the first half. I got a couple of open looks and a couple of easy baskets around the rim. I was just trying to try to play the game the right way and happened to score right out the gate in the second half.”
In response, the Golden Bears attempted to go basket-for-basket against the Buffs, but their efforts were not enough. Finishing strong, the Buffs turned the last ten minutes of the half into a team effort, instead of a one=man show. Colorado saw baskets from Gabbidon, Simpson, Luke O’Brien, Ethan Wright and even Lawson Lovering. Lovering began an 11-0 scoring run for the Buffs, putting Cal into a four-minute scoring drought.
The Buffs’ confidence continued to show through, especially in the final six minutes. O’Brien had an impressive dunk off of a fast break, assisted by Simpson.
“It was a good momentum thing,” O’Brien said. “I was just trying to make a play to get the energy going from the crowd. I like how our team was locked in right after that. We didn’t celebrate or anything. We got right back to defense [with] a turnover and another stop [before] they called the timeout.”
A few seconds later, Simpson had a great layup after a fast break. This gave Colorado their largest margin of the match with a lead of 15 points. Then, O’Brien sealed the deal, going 2-for-2 on free throws in the final 40 seconds. The Buffaloes concluded the game with a 13-point margin.
Colorado’s offensive efforts doubled statistically with 50% from the field (13-for-26) and almost 43% for 3’s (3-for-7). Although their free throws dropped below their average to 46% (6-for-13), the Buffs made up for it with field goals.
“My hat goes off to our guys tonight for not letting the offensive frustrations, especially in the first half, leak over into the defense,” Boyle said. “For the most part, we executed the defensive game plan pretty well.”
In particular, Colorado excelled with converting turnovers into points. Cal had 22 turnovers by the end of the game, which Colorado converted into 23 points. The Golden Bears, on the other hand, only managed to convert seven points from the Buff’s 11 turnovers.
Statistically, the Buffs outscored the Golden Bears in every aspect. Colorado led in second chance points (8), bench points (25), fast break points (15) and points in the paint (24).
As the season continues, the Buffs hope to continue this momentum going forward with their next match against the Utah Utes on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Malaina Humphreys at Malaina.Humphreys@colorado.edu.