What went right: The Buffs did many things well, outrebounding Arizona 25-23 while shooting .558 from the floor.
What went wrong: CU attempted only eight free throws while the Wildcats went 22-for-23.
Star of the game: George King. CU’s standout wing enjoyed a memorable night, going 9-for-12 from the floor with a 4-for-5 mark on 3-pointers to finish with a team-leading 22 points.
What’s next: It’s another quick turnaround for CU, which visits No. 21 Arizona State on Saturday (6 p.m., ESPNU).
TUCSON, Ariz.— Rarely has an opposing technical foul been celebrated so giddily by the home faithful.
Leading his team into the McKale Center at the University of Arizona for the first time since his postgame “Hell yes” comment after defeating the Wildcats at home nearly three weeks ago, Colorado head coach Tad Boyle was assessed a technical foul at the 16 minute, 25 second mark of the second half of Thursday night’s battle.
Naturally, it set off a rousing chorus of cheers and jeers directed at CU’s leader. And the resulting free throws by Arizona’s Allonzo Trier added to what became a 15-4 run by the Wildcats that changed the complexion of the game and led to an 80-71 defeat for the Buffaloes.
Outside that opening four-plus minute stretch of the second half the Buffs essentially played right with the 11th-ranked Wildcats, even cutting the Arizona lead to one with about seven minutes remaining, but CU ultimately couldn’t recapture the lead it held for most of the first half.
It was Arizona’s 14th win in 15 games, with the loss in Boulder on Jan. 6 the only blemish during that run.
“I thought our guys battled and our effort, our rebounding, was better than it was against Washington,” Boyle said. “I just wish this team would play with this kind of passion and energy every night. That’s what separates Arizona from the rest of the league is that they’re so consistent game in and game out. Whereas the rest of us are kind of up and down.
“We had some guys have some big-time performances in a very hostile environment.”
Statistically the result was a bit of an anomaly for the Buffs, who outrebounded Arizona 25-23 and shot .558 from the field — including an 18-for-26 performance after halftime. CU also committed just 10 turnovers, but the Wildcats still were able to take advantage of those miscues to convert them into 17 points.
The glaring difference was at the foul line, where Arizona went 22-for-23 against just a 5-for-8 mark for the Buffs. Seven-foot-1 freshman Deandre Ayton, the possible top overall pick in next summer’s NBA draft, did most of that damage, going 12-for-12 at the free throw line before finishing with 20 points and six rebounds.
The Wildcats also matched the hot shooting of the Buffs, finishing with a .531 mark while going 16-for-23 in the second half. It was just the third time in the past 61 games the Buffs have lost while shooting at least 50 percent.
“In the first half we were able to get stops and get transition going, but in the second half we were taking it out of the net,” Boyle said. “That was the key, I thought, the first three, four possessions (of the second half). We weren’t very good offensively or defensively.”
The game was tied 30-30 at halftime before the Wildcats ambushed the Buffs out of the break, putting together that 15-4 run over the first 4 minutes, 7 seconds of the second half.
CU was able to hang around and battled to within 70-69 on a McKinley Wright 3-pointer with a little more than seven minutes remaining. A layup by Tyler Bey kept CU within three points with a little under three minutes remaining, but a 3-pointer by Trier with Wright in his face started an 8-2 run for the Wildcats that iced the game.
“They’re going to make runs. It’s going to happen,” said CU senior George King, who enjoyed a stellar night with 20 points on a 9-for-12 effort from the field. “It’s about weathering that storm and not allowing that one run determine the game. That’s what good teams do, and I think we were able to do that because we cut it to (one). That shows this team has what it takes to withstand runs.”
No. 11 ARIZONA 80, COLORADO 71
Walton 2-5 0-0 4, M.Wright 6-9 1-2 15, King 9-12 0-0 22, N.Wright 2-3 0-0 4, Bey 5-9 1-2 11, Siewert 1-1 0-0 3, Collier 2-7 3-4 8, Nikolic 2-3 0-0 4, Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Schwartz 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 29-52 5-8 71.
Ayton 4-10 12-12 20, Ristic 7-8 1-2 15, Jackson-Cartwright 1-5 0-0 3, Smith 4-8 2-2 13, Trier 8-13 5-5 23, Lee 2-2 2-2 6, Pinder 0-1 0-0 0, Randolph 0-2 0-0 0, Akot 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-49 22-23 80.
Halftime — 30-30. 3-Point Goals — Colorado 8-16 (King 4-5, M.Wright 2-2, Siewert 1-1, Collier 1-4, Schwartz 0-1, Bey 0-1, Nikolic 0-1, Brown 0-1), Arizona 6-15 (Smith 3-6, Trier 2-6, Jackson-Cartwright 1-3). Fouled Out — None. Rebounds — Colorado 23 (Bey 7), Arizona 22 (Ristic 8). Assists — Colorado 13 (M.Wright 7), Arizona 12 (Jackson-Cartwright 4). Total Fouls — Colorado 18, Arizona 14. Technicals — Colorado coach Tad Boyle. A — 14,644 (14,644).