What went right
CU had a strong start, unlike the first two meetings with Arizona, and trailed by just three, 27-24 at halftime.
What went wrong
In the final 14 minutes, CU was out-scored 25-11. They were dominated offensively and defensively during that stretch.
Star of the game
Askia Booker. He had a team-high 12 points and six rebounds to keep his team in it for a while.
The Buffs will wait for Selection Sunday to learn their NCAA Tournament destination.
LAS VEGAS — Askia Booker gave the Colorado men's basketball team some hope when he converted a three-point play with just under 14 minutes to go on Friday night.
That hope was quickly siphoned out of the Buffaloes, however.
No. 4 Arizona turned a close game into a rout in a hurry, blowing out the Buffs 63-43 in the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson scored 16 points, as the top-seeded Wildcats (30-3) dominated the final 14 minutes to eliminate the fifth-seeded Buffs (23-11) from this tournament for the second year in a row.
"I think we gave ourselves a great chance going into the second half to pull out a win, but it only takes two to five minutes to make a great run," said Booker, who led the team with 12 points and six rebounds. "They blew the game open and they took care of business."
The Wildcats have been doing that most of the year, and especially this week in Las Vegas. On Thursday, they held Utah to a season-low point total in a dominating 71-39 victory.
Arizona held CU to a season-low in points, as well, and the Buffs' 19-point second half was their lowest-scoring half of the season.
After holding Utah to 25.5 percent shooting (12-for-47), Arizona held CU to a season-worst 29.4 (15-for-51) while playing in front of an arena nearly filled with red-clad Wildcat fans.
"Listen, they're a great defensive team — they're not a good defensive team, they're a great defensive team," Boyle said. "They've shown it game after game all season long."
They certainly showed it in the final 14 minutes. Booker's three-point play, with 13:55 to go, pulled the Buffs within 38-32, but in the 6 minutes, 25 seconds after that, Arizona outscored the Buffs 13-0, while CU went 0-for-10 from the floor.
By the time Jordin Mayes completed that run with a layup, the Buffs were in a 51-32 hole and looking forward to Selection Sunday.
"That game got away from us in the second half really quick — a combination of things: transition defense, quick shots on offense, and not guarding the ball and their second shots," CU head coach Tad Boyle said.
Booker hit a jumper to end Arizona's surge, but the deficit reached as many as 23 points after Johnson drilled a 3-pointer with 4:47 to play.
Despite the loss, beating Southern Cal and California in the first two rounds here this week likely solidified CU's spot in the NCAA Tournament. Arizona is on track to get one of the four No. 1 seeds for the Tournament. The brackets will be announced on Sunday.
CU was hoping to pick up a Pac-12 Tournament title before then, and gave it a pretty good effort for 26 minutes.
The Buffs avoided the disastrous start that plagued them in the two regular season meetings with the Wildcats. On Jan. 23 in Tucson, Arizona jumped to an 18-4 lead and on Feb. 22 in Boulder it bolted to a 22-5 lead against the Buffs.
This time, CU actually scored first and pulled within 14-13 on a 3-pointer by Xavier Talton with 9:32 to go in the first half.
Arizona then went on an 8-0 run that included Nick Johnson getting an alley-oop dunk and a 3-pointer. That gave the Wildcats a 22-13 lead and their sea of fans a jolt of energy.
Just when it appeared that the Wildcats would go on a big run, though, Xavier Johnson quieted the crowd with a 3-pointer, sparking an 11-2 CU run that tied the game at 24-24.
The Wildcats' Gabe York nailed a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to send Arizona in the locker room with a 27-24 lead.
"It was probably the best way we could have started out the game, keeping it very close, very winnable," Booker said.
In the end, though, the Buffs walked off the court with their third loss to Arizona this season.
"They're a hell of a team, hell of a program," Boyle said. "They've had an unbelievable year."