WESTWOOD - Behind a monster night from George King, the Colorado Buffaloes toppled Pac-12 leading UCLA 68-59 for the first time ever at Pauley Pavilion on a night when the normally high-flying Bruins couldn’t seem to buy a bucket. King had 26 points and grabbed ten rebounds, and Thomas Welsh led the way for UCLA with 20 points.
In the opening minute of the game, McKinley Wright found Tyler Bey for a beautiful alley-oop that gave CU their first points, and it set the tone for the rest of the first half. The Buffs started the game hot from the field; hitting 4 of their first 7 threes to take a 20-11 advantage after the first 9 minutes of the game. UCLA, on the other hand, missed their first seven from behind the arc. CU also outworked the Bruins on the glass in the early going, holding a 14-9 rebounding advantage at the under-8 media timeout. UCLA would make up the difference and overtake the Buffs on the glass in the second half.
The Buffs led by as many as 17 after George King hit a three pointer to put them up 34-17, but UCLA went on a quick 9-0 run after that to cut the lead to eight; forcing Tad Boyle to call timeout with just over a minute left in the half. After the timeout, Deleon Brown hit a huge three as the shot clock was running down out and the Buffs took a 39-29 lead into the locker room. UCLA was still in the game, however, despite hitting just 36% of their shots and 42% of their free throws. The Buffs hit 8 out of 14 three pointers in the first half. McKinley Wright was held scoreless, but he dished out seven assists and only turned the ball over once.
“I was just taking what the defense was giving me,” Wright said. “Coach told me that taking me out of the game is teams’ gameplan now, and tonight UCLA did a good job of helping on me, so I was just able to find the open man.”
The second half was a tight affair as the Buffs cooled off and the Bruins continued to struggle to find any sort of offensive rhythm. The Colorado lead generally fluctuated between 7 and 12 points until back to back threes by George King pushed the lead to 55-41 with just over 9 minutes remaining. The Buffs would then enter into a long scoreless drought and, in between costly turnovers and missed layups, the Bruins got 10 consecutive points from senior Thomas Welsh, which forced Tad Boyle to call timeout with 5:15 remaining in the game and the score 55-51.
The Buffs scored five straight points out of the timeout, including another huge three from George King, to take a 60-51 lead that they would hold on to for the rest of the game. There were a few turnover shenanigans near the end, but the outcome was never seriously in doubt in the final minutes as CU won 68-59.
UCLA, who had been averaging 94 points per game in conference play, shot just 37% from the field, 20% from distance and an appalling 8-18 from the line. “They were due” said Tad Boyle, referring to UCLA’s struggles. But the Colorado coach also credited his team with causing some of the Bruins’ woes. He said that “our defensive effort was fantastic.” Boyle also said that he hopes his young team won’t have a letdown after this performance, and that they’ve continued to grow as the season has gone on. “Growth and maturity and confidence have a lot to do with those tough losses. We’ve got to be more consistent, there’s no doubt. But, look, we lost a lot off last year’s team.”
Senior guard Dom Collier said the key to finding more consistency was not getting too high or low during games, and cited the team’s ability to overcome UCLA’s second half run as an example of their growth since the Oregon State game.
George King, when asked about the significance of winning at Pauley Pavilion, said “one day, 100 years from now, when I decide to have kids, I can tell them that I won a game at Pauley Pavilion.” Late tonight there will be a flight full of guys wearing black and gold who will someday be able say that too.
Next up for the Buffs is a home matchup with Washington State on Thursday night at 6PM.