Colorado responded much better on the road than they had in previous games, but the offensive firepower from UCLA in the second half was too much as the Buffs lost to the Bruins 92-74 Thursday night. It looked like Colorado had a real chance to pick up their first marquee road win when they were up 40-36 at halftime. But then the Bruins railed off 56 points in the second half and Colorado simply couldn't match them offensively or stop them defensively. Although the Buffaloes did not come out with a victory, Askia Booker had another standout game finishing with 16 points and a career-high 12 assists. Colorado is now 7-5 in the Pac-12 and 18-7 overall.
Things the Buffaloes did well:
The first half went better than expected as the Buffs overcame an early 13-5 deficit with a 12-2 run to make it 17-15. They never trailed in the remaining part of the half and would shoot 55 percent for the first 20 minutes. Part of that was because of Askia Booker, who matched his career-high in assists for a game in the first half with seven. Booker finished the game with a 6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio and did all he could to help Colorado. Just like the last time these two teams met, Josh Scott had another effective game. Scott had 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting and also had five rebounds. Scott was hitting jumpers, creating three-point play opportunities and scoring inside.
Xavier Talton hit multiple threes from the corner to keep the Buffs alive and finished with 10 points on 3-of-6 shooting. And Xavier Johnson had 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and zero turnovers. Offense clearly wasn't the problem. The team shot 45 percent from the field and had 17 assists on 28 made field goals.
Things the Buffaloes struggled with:
They gave up 92 points in 40 minutes and 56 in the final 20 minutes. The Bruins poured it on the second half because the Buffs refused to close out hard on shooters or play help defense. UCLA's Bryce Alford went 4-of-5 from three to finish with 14 points. Travis Wear didn't miss one of the six shots he attempted and Kyle Anderson had 22 points and 11 assists. Colorado allowed the Bruins to shoot 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from three on 11-of-22 shooting. Part of this can be chalked up to poor defense, but another part of it is the fact that the Buffs really only had six players who could compete with the Bruins tonight and fatigue became an issue.
When Colorado tried to get back into the game in the second half, their decision making was poor. Multiple possessions resulted in threes that weren't good looks. And instead of attacking, the Buffs settled around the perimeter. They weren't going to outscore UCLA the way they were playing defense, so the possessions should have been used more carefully to give the Bruins less chances.
The score is not a great indicator of how close this game was. It was a seven point game with under four minutes to go and then the lead ballooned into double digits. Colorado had a chance to make a statement Thursday night, but the lack of a bench and the unwillingness to play perimeter defense didn't allow them to make that statement.
The road trip is salvageable if the Buffs can beat USC on Sunday at the Galen Center. The Trojans are at the bottom of the Pac-12 and it would be a disaster for Colorado to take another loss in the Pac-12. If the Buffs can come out with the sense of urgency they had in the first half tonight, they should be able to split the weekend.