No. 18 Colorado, despite a nine-point second half lead, collapsed down the stretch and fell to the visiting UCLA Bruins, 70-63, on Saturday afternoon at the CU Events Center.
Colorado honored its two seniors, guard Shane Gatling and forward Lucas Siewert in the team’s 2019-20 home finale.
“Our senior players deserve better, our senior managers deserve better — that’s all I can think about right now,” said sophomore forward Evan Battey postgame.
“This one stings because it was senior night,” said Colorado head coach Tad Boyle. “Shane (Gatling) and Lucas (Siewert) deserve better than they got from their team and coaches tonight.”
CU held a firm nine-point lead with 12 minutes left in the game. Then, the Bruins proceeded to go on a 14-point run to take a lead they wouldn’t give up. During the UCLA run the Buffs did not make a single field goal for nearly 10 minutes and only scored twice in that period from free throws.
“We have to do a better job of staying together,” said junior guard McKinley Wright IV. “On the offensive end when the ball doesn’t go in, people get frustrated and it affects our defensive efforts and what we’re doing on that end.”
The Bruins locked in defensively for the last ten minutes of the contest. UCLA head coach Mick Cronin said communication on defense improved midway through the second half.
“We stopped getting beat, locked them down defensively and our communication was better,” Cronin said.
Colorado entered the game shooting 38% from long range, ranking second in the Pac-12. Saturday turned out to be a different story. CU could not get much to fall, going just 5-of-19 attempts from deep.
UCLA’s halftime adjustments proved crucial to their win. Colorado outscored the Bruins in the paint by 12 in the first half, but UCLA’s 22 paint points in the second period overcame that deficit and then some. The Buffaloes’ defense slipped in the second period, allowing 18 more points than in the first.
“We have to hang our hat on defense. Our defense in the second half wasn’t it tonight,” Wright IV said.
“I just felt like defensively we let down and that can’t happen in high-level basketball games,” Boyle said. “It happened tonight and that’s what cost us the game.”
UCLA’s physicality defined the second half. The referees let both teams play through contact, and Boyle credited the Bruins’ physical defense following the loss.
“They were physical tonight,” Boyle said. “We weren’t able to finish through that contact.”
When asked about whether or not he was upset with non-calls from the officiating Battey said yes, but emphasized that contact is just a part of basketball.
“You have to play through it,” Battey said. “You have got to get the call, it’s part of the game.”
UCLA freshman guard Tyger Campbell lead the Bruins with 11 assists and put up 15 points on 50% shooting. He doubtless controlled the game in the second half.
“Our defense in the second half wasn’t good enough, especially our ball screen defense,” Boyle said. “We tried to double team Campbell and try to make it a little tougher on him to make his reads and his plays, that didn’t work either. Tyger Campbell, 11 assists on the road is hard to get. He’s a terrific player.”
Buff fans packed the CU Events Center and were loud throughout the game. Attendance for Saturday’s matinee reached 11,214, the fifth-highest mark in the CU Events Center and second-highest since Colorado joined the Pac-12.
“Our fans deserve better than they got tonight; I’m sick to my stomach,” Boyle said.
Colorado turns to the road for the end of the season with a three-game road trip upcoming before the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. The Buffs face California Thursday at 7 p.m. MST.
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