This one wasn’t difficult to break down, even after the Colorado Buffaloes did all they could to rewrite the script.
For much of the Buffs’ showdown against No. 9 UCLA on Saturday night, CU simply couldn’t hold on to the ball. And the Bruins were more than happy to take advantage of the Buffaloes’ generosity.
A weekend that began with the promise of opportunity for a young Buffs men’s basketball team that still was hoping to make a push into NCAA Tournament contention ended with the Buffs fumbling away yet another chance to take down a ranked foe, as UCLA survived a spirited comeback bid by CU to hand the Buffs a 71-65 defeat Saturday night at the CU Events Center.
Despite the Buffs’ determined comeback, CU couldn’t overcome 21 turnovers while falling to 0-5 this season against ranked opponents. It also was the first time CU has been swept at home in a two-game league series since January of 2017, when, like this weekend, the Buffs lost to both Los Angeles teams.
“What a disappointing loss. We shot ourselves in the foot for the second game in a row with turnovers,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I didn’t think it could get worse than 16 (against USC) but here we are tonight with 21. But I’ve got to tip my cap to our guys. They battled back in that second half. This team has got fight. It’s got resilience. It’s got heart. We just have to understand the little things on every possession mean something. We haven’t figured that out yet.”
At one point in the early moments, the Buffs had just one field goal attempt with four turnovers, and UCLA quickly built a 10-point lead. CU rallied, however, and a 3-pointer from Keeshawn Barthelemy cut the Bruins’ lead to 21-20 with 7 minutes, 47 seconds remaining in the first half.
From there, though, CU couldn’t get out of its own way. UCLA answered with a 20-5 run, as the Buffs committed seven of their 14 first-half turnovers during the Bruins’ run. The Buffs, meanwhile, went 7:27 between field goals before facing a 43-28 deficit at halftime.
CU was shooting decently at the break — posting a .412 overall mark in the first half while going 4-for-8 on 3-pointers — but those efforts were nullified by UCLA’s whopping 18-0 halftime advantage on points off turnovers.
“I know we’ve got a young team, but that can’t be an excuse anymore,” CVU sophomore forward Jabari Walker said. “We’ve got to gain more experience as these games go along.”
UCLA extended its lead to 17 points early in the second half but, despite the mistake-filled first half, the Buffs still refused to go away quietly.
Twice CU cut the UCLA lead to three points only to watch Bruins guard Johnny Juzang respond with a timely jump shot each time. CU cut the deficit to one point on a Walker dunk, but UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell answered with a critical 3-pointer that pushed the Bruins’ lead back to four points with 1:36 to play.
Two free throws from Evan Battey with 1:14 left kept CU within 65-63, and after a defensive stop the Buffs had an opportunity to pull even. But a wild drive from CU freshman KJ Simpson was off the mark, and Juzang pushed the UCLA lead back to four with a pair of free throws with 16 seconds remaining.
In the end, the Buffs shot an even 50 percent, their second-best mark of the season in Pac-12 play, and outrebounded UCLA 33-26. Wasting 21 possessions against a reigning Final Four program and league title contender proved too much to overcome.
“There are times in athletics, and this may be one of them…where you do have to tip your cap to your opponents,” Boyle said. “Johnny Juzang is a first team All-American is a first team All-American for a reason. He made big-time plays down the stretch. And then Tyger Campbell I think is one of the most underrated point guards in the country. He made a big-time three at a critical time when they needed it. That’s what great players do, and UCLA has great players.”
What went right: CU shot 50 percent overall, went 15-for-17 at the free throw line, and outrebounded UCLA 33-26.
What went wrong: Twenty-one turnovers by the Buffs led to a 20-8 advantage for UCLA in points off turnovers. It was an 18-0 mark at halftime, and CU also surrendered 11 offensive rebounds that led to 14 second-chance points for the Bruins.
Star of the game: Jabari Walker. The sophomore forward led the Buffs with 19 points and shared the team lead with seven rebounds. Walker went 6-for-7 on free throws and committed only one turnover in more than 30 minutes of court time.
What’s next: CU begins a run of three road games in six days with the twice rescheduled date at Oregon on Tuesday (8 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
No. 9 UCLA 71, Colorado 65
UCLA (13-2, 6-1 Pac-12)
Riley 3-6 0-0 6, Bernard 2-8 4-4 9, Campbell 1-8 1-2 4, Juzang 9-18 4-4 23, Jaquez 4-10 4-5 14, Johnson 4-4 0-1 8, Singleton 1-3 0-0 3, Clark 1-1 2-2 4, Watson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-58 15-18 71.
COLORADO (12-6, 4-4 Pac-12)
Battey 5-6 3-4 15, Walker 6-13 6-7 19, da Silva 4-9 2-2 10, Barthelemy 2-2 0-0 6, Clifford 1-2 0-0 3, Simpson 3-8 4-4 10, O’Brien 0-1 0-0 0, Hammond 0-2 0-0 0, Lovering 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-44 15-17 65.
Halftime – UCLA 43-28. 3-point field goals – UCLA 6-14 (Jaquez 2-4, Singleton 1-1, Juzang 1-2, Bernard 1-3, Campbell 1-4), Colorado 6-15 (Barthelemy 2-2, Battey 2-2, Clifford 1-1, Walker 1-4, Hammond 0-1, O’Brien 0-1, Simpson 0-1, da Silva 0-3). Rebounds – UCLA 26 (Juzang 6), Colorado 33 (Walker, Simpson 7). Assists – UCLA 11 (Jaquez 4), Colorado 16 (Clifford, Simpson 5). Total Fouls – UCLA 18, Colorado 22. A – 8,774.