Friday, February 7, 2020

No. 24 Colorado 71, California 65: Buffaloes overcome rocky start to stay in first place with the Ducks

Photo Credit: David Zalubowaski- Associated Press

By: Adam Chalifoux
Twitter: @FantasticMrFoux

Despite the homecourt advantage and getting off to the best start the No. 24 Colorado Buffaloes have enjoyed in a decade, it was a rocky start in the rocky mountains on Thursday night, but overcame it in a 71-65 win over the California Golden Bears. 

Fresh off a statement win over USC, the Buffaloes did not bring their A-game against the California Golden Bears. In fact, if they came out any colder there would have likely been a winter storm advisory. Colorado was just two of their first 13 from deep. 

Cal had every chance to pull away in the first half, shooting 63 percent from the field and 66 from behind the 3-point line. Eight turnovers kept Colorado in the game. The Buffaloes made up for their shooting woes by only committing two turnovers and seven offensive rebounds through the first twenty minutes. With seconds left in the first half, McKinley Wright found Tyler Bey for an open layup to make it 28 all at the break. 

Cal was led by strong performances from Matt Bradley, who finished with a team-high 17 points and Paris Austin who finished with 15. However, the Buffaloes turned on the defrosters in the second half. Colorado did just enough to pull off the win, shooting five-of-11 from deep in the final 20 minutes, largely due to two of their leaders.

Tyler Bey was named one of ten finalists for the Karl Malone Award given to the best power forward in college basketball Thursday morning. He showed why by leading the team with a game-high 21 points with 13 of them coming in the second half. Bey was also crucial on the glass with ten rebounds.

After being held to just five points and shooting one for four in the first half, McKinley Wright found his stride in the second, going a perfect five for five from the field to finish with 19 points, six rebounds, and four assists. The duo combined for nine-of-11 in the final 20 minutes for 27 of Colorado's 44 points.

"We knew we couldn't afford to lose this one," said Wright.

Despite the win, the Buffaloes feel that they are a better team than the version of themselves that took the floor.

Coach Tad Boyle said the game reminded him of some of his team's games at the beginning of the season.

"We weren't very good but we found a way to win the game," said Boyle.

The Buffaloes move to 7-3 in Pac-12 play which puts them in first place for now. The mood after the game, however, did not reflect that.

"The sign of a somber locker room after a league win tells us that we have pretty high expectations of ourselves," Boyle said.

Colorado will host Stanford this Saturday back at the CU Events Center while Cal will head to Utah. With wins over USC and Oregon, Colorado would own tie-breakers over the next three teams in the Pac-12. If they do hope to beat the Cardinal however, they will likely need to play well for forty minutes, not just the final twenty.