What went right: CU recorded a season-most 18 assists and outrebounded Cal 37-24.
What went wrong: Cal was able to rally in large part due to 10 second-half turnovers by the Buffs.
Star of the game: Tyler Bey. The sophomore forward posted his sixth double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Bey went 6-for-8 from the field and 5-for-6 at the free throw line while also recording three blocked shots.
What's next: The Buffs will have less than 48 hours to prepare for Saturday's road date at Stanford (6 p.m. MT, FS1).
BERKELEY, Calif. — Coach Tad Boyle called it a must-win situation for his Colorado Buffaloes.
CU got the victory they needed, outlasting Cal for a 68-59 win, but it was a performance that at times was as dominant as it was nerve-racking for the Buffs.
The Buffs controlled the first half, and after scoring the first seven points after halftime CU held what felt like an insurmountable 18-point advantage against a Golden Bears squad that has yet to win a Pac-12 Conference game.
Instead, the Buffs held on for dear life down the stretch, winning at Haas Pavilion for the first time as a Pac-12 program and ending a streak of 12 losses in 13 road games against Cal.
"We kept our composure," CU sophomore forward Tyler Bey said. "We didn't speed the game up. We weren't in a rush. Those last few minutes, we had to dig down and just play defense and execute on offense. This is just the start. We were in a slump, but now we just have to pick it up."
CU led 34-23 at halftime and quickly extended the lead to 18 points after the break, but a Cal team that fell to 0-7 in league play refused to go away quietly. The Bears gradually whittled the Buffs' advantage, taking a 54-53 lead on a pair of Matt Bradley free throws with 7 minutes, 4 seconds remaining.
CU immediately answered with seven consecutive points, getting a putback basket from Bey, a 3-pointer from Lucas Siewert, and a pull-up jumper from McKinley Wright to regain some breathing room. Cal still remained within two points with about four minutes remaining, but the Buffs outscored Cal 8-1 the rest of the way to hold on.
That game-ending run featured a clutch in-your-face 3-pointer from Wright, who returned to the starting lineup after missing Sunday's loss at Utah due to a left shoulder injury. Wright went 2-for-3 on 3-pointers and finished with eight points and four assists.
CU posted 12 assists on 13 field goals in the first half and finished with a season-high 18 assists. Freshman Daylen Kountz matched a season-best with four assists and had no turnovers in 25 minutes.
"We're up 18, they come back and take the lead and our guys did not break," Boyle said. "It would have been very easy on the road, with this young team, for us to kind of lose our composure and lose the game. But our guys found a way to get some buckets when we needed buckets. We did what we had to do to win the game.
"We always talk about hanging our hat on defensive and rebounding, and we rebounded the ball extremely well tonight."
Bey posted his sixth double-double of the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Siewert finished with a team-leading 18 points. Shane Gatling helped the Buffs get off to a strong start by draining three of his first four 3-point attempts, and he finished with 13 points and a season-high six rebounds despite going 0-for-7 from the arc the rest of the way.
"We just had to stay together," Siewert said. "That was something we talked about in the huddle. We just had to play with poise. Every team makes a run, especially at home. We just have to make sure teams don't get that long of a run."
Colorado 68, Cal 59
At Haas Pavilion
COLORADO (11-7, 2-4)
Siewert 6-11 4-4 18, Gatling 5-14 0-0 13, Bey 6-8 5-6 16, Schwartz 1-2 0-0 2, Wright 3-7 0-0 8, Kountz 2-6 1-2 5, Battey 2-2 1-3 5, Parquet 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 11-15 68.
CAL (5-14, 0-7)
Sueing 5-12 3-5 13, Davis 0-3 0-2 0, Kelly 2-4 2-2 6, Austin 6-10 1-2 13, Bradley 3-8 4-4 12, McNeill 3-12 0-0 9, Harris-Dyson 1-2 2-3 4, Vanover 0-1 0-0 0, Anticevich 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 21-54 12-18 59.
3-point field goals — Colorado 7-22 (Siewert 2-4, Gatling 3-11, Bey 0-1, Schwartz 0-1, Wright 2-3, Kountz 0-2); Cal 5-21 (Sueing 0-3, Kelly 2-4, Austin 0-3, Bradley 2-6, McNeill 3-8, Vanover 0-1). Rebounds — Colorado 37 (Bey 14); Cal 24 (Kelly, Bradley 4). Assists — Colorado 18 (Wright, Kountz 4); Cal 10 (Austin 7). Total fouls — Colorado 18; Cal 17. Fouled out — None. A — 5,720.