What went right: Not much. But the Buffs shot well early from 3-point range to stay close for a while, though they could not maintain the pace.
What went wrong: CU shot a season-low .311 (19-for-61) and was outrebounded 39-37.
Star of the game: Xavier Talton. Senior guard matched a career-high with four 3-pointers, finishing with 12 points, five assists, and four rebounds.
What's next?: The Buffs begin the final homestand of the season against No. 12 Arizona on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
LOS ANGELES — Needing a bounce-back performance to build momentum heading into the final homestand of the season, the Colorado Buffaloes instead saw further shortcomings get exposed late Saturday night.
And time is running out to get those matters corrected.
Unable to muster a consistent offensive attack while being torched by UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton, the Buffs suffered a 77-53 loss at historic Pauley Pavilion.
In addition to the season-low point total, CU also shot a season-low .311 from the floor (19-for-61) and was outrebounded for just the fifth time this season. The loss was CU's fourth in a row on the road and further muddied the Buffs' NCAA tournament hopes heading into Wednesday's home date against No. 12 Arizona.
“When you rely on the 3-ball, you'd better shoot the 3-ball well. And we did early, but we didn't late,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I think too many possessions went by without us getting a paint touch, and we're not very good when we don't get paint touches.
“Our guys are trying, they're just not getting it done. We have to get better, there's no doubt about it. Right now, we're not playing up to our capability level, and that's my job as the coach.”
Much like he did two weeks ago at Oregon State, Boyle shook up his starting lineup in hopes of curing his team's turnover woes, giving freshman Thomas Akyazili his first career start in place of Dom Collier.
Like two weeks ago the move didn't exactly backfire, yet it failed to spark the Buffs as well. Akyazili went 1-for-6 from the field with one assist and one turnover in 19 minutes. Collier, coming off the bench for the first time this season, made 2-of-3 3-pointers during CU's solid start from long range and ended a two-game slump without an assist by registering two in 17 minutes.
The Buffs' opening salvo from 3-point range kept the game close for a while, with CU answering an early 11-3 run by the Bruins by trimming the lead to five points at the final media timeout of the first half.
Boyle urged his club to finish strong, but instead UCLA reeled off a half-closing 14-3 run in what CU's coach believed was the decisive stretch of the contest. The Buffs made just three of their final 16 shots in the first half while falling behind 44-28 at the break.
“It was a five-point game, 30-25, and we talked about finishing the half strong,” Boyle said. “That last four and a half minutes is important, and they come out on a 14-3 run. That was the ball game right there. We just broke down with defensive assignments. It wasn't one guy, it was a multitude of guys.
“Our execution level right now on both ends of the floor is not very good, and that has to change. It's the middle of February, and if you're not executing you're going to get beat in this league. We got beat by two teams (USC and UCLA) that executed better than us.”
A hot start from 3-point range kept the Buffs close early, but CU couldn't maintain the pace. CU (19-9, 8-7 Pac-12 Conference) never threatened after the Bruins opened the second half with a 12-4 run. At one point more than 32 minutes into the game, CU had more 3-point field goals (eight) than two-point buckets (six).
Josh Scott, who came off the bench in Wednesday's loss at USC in his return from a two-game injury absence, returned to the starting lineup and finished with nine points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Talton matched his career-high with four 3-pointers and paced the Buffs with 12 points and five assists. Josh Fortune was CU's only player in double-figures, finishing with 10 points.
Hamilton went 9-for-12 from the floor and scored a game-high 22 points for UCLA. The Bruins went 11-for-20 from 3-point range and finished 50 percent overall (30-for-60).
“It starts with us on the perimeter,” Talton said. “We had to take more of a challenge on (Bryce) Alford and Hamilton and (Aaron) Holiday. For us to not come out and have that energy, it's disappointing.”