Second half rally falls short for CU Buffs men’s basketball at No. 5 UCLA

Jabari Walker’s fourth consecutive double-double not enough

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 01: Tristan da Silva #23 of the Colorado Buffaloes defends Jaime Jaquez Jr. #24 of the UCLA Bruins as he drives to the basket in the first half of the game at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 1, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 01: Tristan da Silva #23 of the Colorado Buffaloes defends Jaime Jaquez Jr. #24 of the UCLA Bruins as he drives to the basket in the first half of the game at UCLA Pauley Pavilion on December 1, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES — With two top-15 teams on the schedule this week in a four-day span, the Colorado men’s basketball team understood it would get a revealing test to see just how the Buffaloes stack up against the best in the Pac-12 as well as the nation.

Following the first of those challenges on Wednesday night at No. 5 UCLA, it seems the Buffs are close. But they’re not quite there yet.

CU refused to go away quietly after the Bruins looked as if they might run the Buffs out of the gym late in the first half. Yet this time another second-half rally by CU wasn’t enough, as the fifth-ranked Bruins held off their guests to send the Buffs back to Boulder with a 73-61 defeat.

CU won’t have much time to dwell on the loss ahead of a visit from No. 13 Tennessee on Saturday.

“We’ve been getting off to slow starts pretty much every game this year,” CU senior guard Elijah Parquet said. “We’ve been saying when we get a good team, that’s going to bite us. And it happened tonight. We got it too late, and started the defense too late, but we can’t do that against good teams because they’ll punish us every time. And that’s what happened tonight.”

A jumper from the free throw line by Parquet kept the Buffs within 22-16 of the Bruins with 7 minutes, 30 seconds left in the first half, but things quickly unraveled from there. CU committed four turnovers over the next three minutes, aiding an 11-0 run by the Bruins that gave the hosts a 17-point lead late in the first half and a 39-23 advantage at halftime.

So far this season the Buffs have been a second-half team, and on Wednesday they immediately made noise after halftime, scoring the first six points of the second half while intensifying the defensive pressure.

CU shot just .370 in the first half but found the mark after the break, eventually cutting UCLA’s lead to four points on a pair of free throws from Jabari Walker with 9:34 to play. But the Bruins scored the next six points in what became a 9-2 run, and the Buffs didn’t get the deficit under 10 the rest of the way. Amid that 9-2 run, Buffs senior Evan Battey, coming off a career-best 22-point performance in a win against Stanford, fouled out with 6:30 to go after recording just four points with two rebounds.

Walker posted 22 points and 11 rebounds for his fourth consecutive double-double. CU was just 5-for-21 on 3-pointers while the Bruins went 7-for-16.

“We cut that thing to four points in the second half. We just couldn’t get over the hump,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “Jabari Walker did some nice things offensively, but defensively we have to get better. We have to become a better, tougher rebounding team. This was a toughness game. And UCLA was the tougher team. Bottom line.”

Under Boyle, the Buffs set daily game goals of winning the battle of the boards while holding the opposition to under 40 percent from the floor. But the Buffs have opened Pac-12 play by getting outrebounded in the first two league games (the Bruins posted a 36-29 edge). And despite the defensive improvement after halftime, UCLA still finished with a .466 mark from the floor. CU has held just two of its eight opponents so far under 40 percent.

“We followed the game plan for the most part. We’ve just got to control the iso-drives,” Walker said. “I don’t exactly know what it is for us in the second half. It seems like everything just clicks in the second half. I don’t know if it’s the halftime talk, but we came out with some more energy. All the pregame jitters went out with being at UCLA. The second half we got more comfortable, and you could see that.”

Fast break

What went right: CU found its rhythm defensively in the second half, holding UCLA to a .379 mark from the floor after the break.

What went wrong: The Buffs were outrebounded 39-29 and went just 5-for-21 on 3-pointers.

Star of the game: Jabari Walker. The sophomore forward posted his fourth consecutive double-double and his fifth of the season with game-highs of 22 points an 11 rebounds.

What’s next: CU will get zero chance to regroup, as the Buffs host No. 13 Tennessee on Saturday (noon, FS1).

No. 5 UCLA 73, Colorado 61

COLORADO (6-1, 1-1 Pac-12)

Battey 2-7 0-1 4, Walker 7-11 6-8 22, da Silva 2-4 0-0 4, Barthelemy 1-5 0-0 2, Parquet 4-8 2-2 11, Clifford 3-6 1-2 9, Simpson 3-9 0-0 6, Lovering 0-0 1-2 1, O’Brien 1-3 0-0 2, Hammond 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 10-15 61.

UCLA (7-1, 1-0)

Johnson 5-6 2-6 12, Bernard 3-9 2-2 10, Campbell 8-16 1-2 21, Juzang 6-15 2-2 15, Jaquez 0-0 0-0 0, Clark 2-3 0-0 4, Singleton 2-5 0-0 4, Nwuba 1-2 0-0 2, Watson 0-2 3-4 3, Kyman 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 27-58 12-18 73.

Halftime – UCLA 39-23. 3-Point Goals – Colorado 5-21 (Clifford 2-4, Walker 2-4, Parquet 1-4, Battey 0-1, Hammond 0-1, O’Brien 0-1, da Silva 0-1, Barthelemy 0-2, Simpson 0-3), UCLA 7-16 (Campbell 4-7, Bernard 2-4, Juzang 1-3, Singleton 0-2). Fouled Out – Battey. Rebounds – Colorado 29 (Walker 11), UCLA 36 (Johnson 10). Assists – Colorado 11 (Barthelemy 4), UCLA 15 (Juzang 6). Total Fouls – Colorado 18, UCLA 18.