What went right: CU cut what had been a 23-point Cal lead to five, and the Buffs also went a solid 18-for-22 from the free throw line.
What went wrong: The Buffs’ biggest setback occurred before the game, as second-leading scorer Xavier Johnson and leading rebounder Wesley Gordon were suspended for a violation of team rules.
Star of the game: Derrick White. The senior scored a game-high 25 points and scored 13 during a 17-2 run that brought the Buffs back into the game.
What’s next: The Buffs return home for a two-game homestand beginning Thursday night against Washington (8 p.m., FS1).
BERKELEY, Calif. — Playing on the road is tough enough, particularly when the host team boasts one of the top frontcourts in the Pac-12 Conference.
On Sunday, the Colorado Buffaloes had to face that exact challenge without their top two forwards. While the Buffs that were on the floor put up a tremendous fight in rallying from a 23-point first half deficit, the absence of both Wesley Gordon and Xavier Johnson was too much to overcome Sunday afternoon in a 77-66 loss at Cal.
Afterward head coach Tad Boyle described the situation as a violation of team rules. He also indicated the benching might not be simply a one-game situation.
“They violated a team rule, so we handled it and they didn’t play,” Boyle said. “It’s a situation where two really good kids made a bad decision. We had to address it, so we did.”
When asked if the punishment would end after Sunday’s loss, Boyle added, “We don’t know yet.”
Tory Miller and freshman Lucas Siewert replaced Gordon and Johnson in the starting lineup, but the Buffs often appeared shellshocked early as Cal raced to a 23-point lead late in the first half. The Buffs went scoreless for a stretch of 6 minutes, 7 seconds while Cal built its sizeable advantage with 19 consecutive points.
Cal made nine 3-pointers in the first half, led by a 5-for-7 mark from freshman guard Charlie Moore.
“Those are two of our starters and great contributors on the glass,” CU junior George King said of Gordon and Johnson’s absence. “Offensively, they’re a backbone to our team. They’re our two bigs. It was kind of weird not having them out there. But if everyone does a little bit more, we can make up for those guys. That’s what we were trying to do.”
The Buffs were able to storm back behind an inspired effort from Derrick White, who scored five points in a 7-0 CU run that ended the half. White then added eight points in a 10-2 Buffs charge that opened the second half and trimmed Cal’s lead to 43-36 with 16:12 to play.
Cal kept the Buffs at bay until late, when a White 3-pointer with 3:15 left pulled the Buffs within 62-57, but CU couldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
White finished with a game-high 25 points while Miller, who made his second start of the season, recorded 10 points and nine rebounds. Four different players reached double-figure points for Cal, led by 17 from Moore.
Without the combined 13.4 rebounds averaged by Gordon and Johnson, the Buffs were outrebounded 40-32, with Cal enjoying a 24-12 advantage on second-chance points. Golden Bears sophomore Ivan Rabb led that effort with a game-high 11 rebounds, adding 11 points for his 12th double-double of the season.
“We didn’t go away, so it shows a lot about our character,” White said. “But we don’t take away moral victories. We have to get better in a lot of areas and learn from this. (Gordon and Johnson) are important to our team but there wasn’t anything we could do about it. We didn’t lose because they didn’t play. We lost because we didn’t rebound well enough.”
CALIFORNIA 77, CU 66
COLORADO (13-11, 3-8 Pac-12)
Siewert 2-4 2-2 7, Miller 4-7 2-3 10, White 8-18 6-6 25, Collier 1-7 2-2 5, G.King 2-7 3-3 7, Brown 0-2 0-0 0, Peters 3-8 1-4 7, Akyazili 0-0 0-0 0, Fortune 1-4 2-2 5. Totals 21-57 18-22 66.
CALIFORNIA (17-6, 8-3)
Rabb 4-10 3-4 11, Okoroh 0-0 0-0 0, Bird 4-11 0-1 10, Moore 6-14 0-0 17, Mullins 3-14 8-8 16, Moute a Bidias 0-0 0-0 0, Rooks 4-5 1-2 9, Singer 4-7 0-0 9, Domingo 1-2 2-3 5. Totals 26-63 14-18 77.
Halftime — California 41-26. 3-point goals — Colorado 6-21 (White 3-9, Fortune 1-2, Siewert 1-3, Collier 1-5, Brown 0-1, Peters 0-1), California 11-29 (Moore 5-8, Bird 2-5, Mullins 2-9, Domingo 1-2, Singer 1-3, Rabb 0-2). Fouled out — Siewert, G.King. Rebounds — Colorado 29 (Miller 9), California 34 (Rabb 11). Assists — Colorado 13 (Fortune 5), California 16 (Moore 8). Total fouls — Colorado 20, California 20. A — 9,719 (11,877).