BERKELEY, Calif. — Most coaches can accept a loss, particularly if his club simply is outplayed on a given night by a superior team.
But to not “answer the bell,” as Friday's league-opening loss at Cal was described by Colorado Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle, is a troubling development. And one CU's leader will be determined to not let become a habit.
Unable to buy a basket for much of the contest and getting dominated on the glass for the first time this season, CU began Pac-12 Conference play with a 79-65 defeat that was far uglier than the final score indicated.
“You look at any phase of the game tonight, and we under-performed, under-achieved, and that's disappointing for the first league game,” Boyle said.
CU began the contest by missing its first nine shots from the field and it didn't get much better from there. Cal scored the game's first 10 points and never trailed, with the Buffaloes failing to dent the scoreboard until a pair of Josh Scott free throws after 6 minutes, 11 seconds had passed.
CU later endured an additional 0-for-8 drought later in the first half as the Golden Bears built a 34-21 lead at the break. The deficit would have been worse for CU if not for a minor 7-2 burst to close the half.
The Buffaloes finished with a 7-for-29 mark from the field in the first half and proceeded to miss their first six shots after halftime. The Buffs finished below 40 percent from the floor for the third consecutive game, posting a season-low .318 mark (21-for-66). Their first-half point total was the Buffs' lowest in any half this season.
“We tried to let our guys know it was going to be like a Colorado State-type game — a lot of emotion, first league game, a road environment. And we just didn't answer the bell,” Boyle said. “We got beat in every phase. We weren't very good offensively. We weren't very good defensively. We gave up 12 layups. We had six assists. When the ball sticks for our offense and we have six assists, we're just not very good.”
CU was outrebounded for just the second time this season and the first time since the season opener against Iowa State. The final margin was just 39-38 in Cal's favor, but that included a 25-15 advantage for the Golden Bears in the first half.
The disastrous first half also included a couple of injury scares for the Buffs, as Scott went out briefly after suffering a foot injury when a Cal player landed on top of him. Scott quickly returned, as did Tory Miller after he went to the locker room late in the first half after hitting his head on the floor.
“They were just better than us offensively and defensively,” Scott said. “There's no getting around it. We didn't do what we wanted to do coming into the game and that's on us. We didn't shoot very well, myself included, and you have to defend. We didn't do that.”
Scott finished with a team-leading 16 points to go with seven rebounds, but he battled through a tough 4-for-16 shooting night. Wes Gordon scored all 11 of his points in the second half and also recorded a team-best nine rebounds. Second-leading scorer George King endured his third consecutive rough shooting game, going 4-for-12 and finishing with nine points.
Boyle expressed concern all week for Cal sharpshooter Jordan Matthews, and the junior guard showed why by making 5-of-9 3-pointers while leading four Cal players in double-figures with 22 points. Jaylen Brown recorded a double-double for the Bears with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and 7-foot-1 center Kingsley Okoroh added 10 points after scoring just five the entire season coming into the game.
The league-opening road trip doesn't get any easier for the Buffs, who visit a Stanford team on Sunday night that knocked off No. 21 Utah in overtime Friday.
“We're not going to change anything we do. The shots just weren't falling,” King said. “The Stanford game was important already, but them beating Utah, that just raises the stakes.”