LOS ANGELES — In the previous three seasons, the Colorado men's basketball team rarely was able to turn the tables once the opposition gathered momentum for game-turning runs.
That no longer seems to be the case with the 2017-18 Buffaloes, who once again responded to every challenge posed by UCLA Saturday night in what became a memorable victory on two fronts. Not only did the Buffs post their first win in a true road game this season after an 0-5 start, but they notched their first win at Pauley Pavilion after going 0-8 all-time at the venue, including an 0-4 mark since joining the Pac-12 Conference.
Except for a brief 2-0 lead in the opening moments by the Bruins, CU led throughout a 68-59 victory. Along the way the Bruins made several challenges to the Buffs lead, only to watch CU respond accordingly.
"We just need to keep it rolling with the Washington (schools) next week," senior guard Dom Collier said. "Just to split this road trip...we know we have these two teams coming back to Boulder, so we have to lock in and continue to keep playing well and look forward to Washington next week."
The Buffs built a 17-point lead in the first half that the Bruins managed to cut to six early in the second half, but CU again padded its advantage with six straight points compiled by three different players — Dallas Walton, Tyler Bey, and George King. When UCLA sharpshooting senior Thomas Welsh scored 10 consecutive points to pull the Bruins within four points with five minutes remaining, the Buffs answered with a Namon Wright layup followed by five straight points from King.
"That's been a question mark for us all season is yeah, Colorado, we have a good team that can win at home, but they can't win on the road. Finally we were able to do that," CU senior George King said. "Just because we got one doesn't mean we're settling. We're definitely going to look to build off this."
Not only have the Buffs survived a Pac-12 opening stretch that featured four of the first six games on the road with an even 3-3 mark, but Saturday's victory gave CU three victories in 10 days against clubs that rank among as the most talented in the league in Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA. A postseason berth of some sort appears more likely with each passing week, and Colorado began the day Sunday with an RPI of 53.
With 12 games remaining before the Pac-12 tournament, the Buffs get to play seven of them at home, beginning with a Thursday night visit from Washington State.
"I said it before the game. When our seniors play well, when our upper classmen play well, and our freshmen keep getting better and better, this team can be pretty special," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "(UCLA) gives us confidence. I told the guys in the locker room this is our first road win this year, but I sure hope it's not our last road win. We've got to go home for the Washington schools and continue to hold serve there. It doesn't get any easier.
"With our league schedule, we had four of the first six on the road against pretty good competition. Some of the tougher teams in our league. Not that the schedule gets easier, but it's maybe not quite as daunting as it was out of the gate. We've got to take advantage of that and we can't take anything for granted."