Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
The buzz finally caught up with the 18th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes on Saturday, as one of the largest crowds ever at the CU Events Center came out to show their appreciation for a team that has been ranked in the AP top 25 more frequently than any squad in team history.
They were treated to a colossal disappointment.
CU went cold at crunch time and couldn’t get stops when needed down the stretch, as UCLA reeled off a dominant run late in the second half to ruin the Buffs’ Senior Day, sending the Buffs to a 70-63 defeat in their home finale.
In just 10 or so minutes of bad basketball, CU went from sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 Conference into a crowd of teams jockeying for the league’s top four spots and a bye at the league tournament in Las Vegas.
CU’s second-half collapse unfolded before a sold out crowd of 11,214, the fifth-largest crowd in the Events Center history and the second largest of the Pac-12 era, trailing only a crowd of 11,309 for a win against Arizona on Feb. 24, 2016.
“Our fans deserved better than they got tonight,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I’m sick to my stomach for a lot of reasons. But mostly for the two seniors and mostly for our fans, because our fans were terrific this last homestand. We didn’t play well enough. That stings. When they show up you want to give them a reason to show up, and we didn’t. We didn’t do a good job tonight.”
The Buffs led 50-41 after a D’Shawn Schwartz-to-McKinley Wright IV layup with about 12 and a half minutes remaining, but the Bruins took over from there. UCLA reeled off 14 consecutive points in what became a 20-3 run that gave the Bruins a 61-53 lead with 2:52 to go.
At one point, CU went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal, missing 10 in a row. UCLA, meanwhile, barely missed after halftime, shooting .563 (18-for-32) in the second half. The Bruins also didn’t commit a single turnover after halftime.
“We were getting some good looks. Some stuff wasn’t falling and we let it affect our defense on the other end,” Wright IV said. “We have to do a better job of staying together. On the offensive end, when the ball isn’t going in, people get frustrated and it affects our defensive effort and what we were doing on that end. Going forward, we have to be better at doing that. We have to hang our hat on defense regardless, and our defense in the second half wasn’t there tonight.”
Wright knocked down a 3-pointer with 49.9 seconds to get the Buffs within 66-63, but the Bruins took advantage of a defensive switch that forced the 6-foot Wright to guard UCLA’s 6-foot-9 Cody Riley on the block. Riley made an easy conversion, and after Shane Gatling missed a 3-pointer, UCLA iced the win at the free throw line.
Wright led the Buffs with 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Tyler Bey posted 13 points, but the Buffs finished 5-for-19 on 3-pointers while the Bruins went 8-for-20. It was CU’s second-lowest 3-point percentage of any game this season with at least 10 long-range attempts, trailing only the .206 mark (7-for-34) the Buffs posted in a loss at Kansas on Dec. 7.
“Credit to UCLA. They deserved to win this game. They were the tougher team in the second half,” Boyle said. “They made the plays down the stretch that needed to be made. And we didn’t. Our defense in the second half wasn’t good enough, especially our ball-screen defense. It really just left us.”
What went right: After getting outrebounded by 10 in a loss at UCLA three weeks ago, CU outrebounded the Bruins 35-31 and shot a solid .446 from the field.
What went wrong: The Bruins shot .563 after halftime, and CU was just 5-for-19 on 3-pointers.
Star of the game: McKinley Wright IV. The junior point guard finished with a game-high 20 points along with seven rebounds and four assists.
What’s next: The Buffs will have to try to keep pace with the Pac-12 front-runners on the road, beginning with a date Thursday at Cal (7 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks).
UCLA 70, No. 18 Colorado 63
UCLA (17-11, 10-5 Pac-12)
Hill 2-4 0-0 4, Campbell 5-10 4-7 15, Singleton 0-3 0-0 0, Smith 4-7 2-2 14, Jaquez 4-14 0-1 9, Riley 8-12 0-1 16, Kyman 5-7 0-0 12, Bernard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-57 6-11 70.
COLORADO (21-7, 10-5)
Battey 5-10 1-2 11, Siewert 1-2 0-0 3, Gatling 3-9 2-2 9, Wright 8-14 2-2 20, Schwartz 2-5 0-0 4, Bey 5-10 3-4 13, Parquet 0-4 0-0 0, Walton 1-2 0-0 3, Daniels 0-0 0-0 0, Kountz 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-56 8-10 63.
Halftime — Colorado 29-26. 3-point goals — UCLA 8-20 (Smith 4-6, Kyman 2-3, Campbell 1-2, Jaquez 1-6, Singleton 0-3), Colorado 5-19 (Wright 2-4, Walton 1-1, Siewert 1-2, Gatling 1-7, Battey 0-1, Parquet 0-2, Schwartz 0-2). Rebounds — UCLA 31 (Jaquez 10), Colorado 35 (Battey, Wright 7). Assists — UCLA 13 (Campbell 11), Colorado 7 (Wright 4). Total fouls — UCLA 15, Colorado 13. A — 11,214 (11,064).