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Buffaloes fall to Arizona Wildcats in first home loss of the season

Colorado’s tournament hopes are hanging on by a thread.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Colorado Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Colorado Buffaloes dropped their first home game on the season on Saturday, falling to the 8th ranked Arizona Wildcats 99-79. The Buffs’ home record drops to 13-1, after squandering an opportunity to pick up a coveted Q1 win.

Things weren’t ugly off the get go, as the Buffs got off to a hot start. After a couple of nice buckets and a beautiful Tristan da Silva pickpocket of Kylan Boswell, Colorado opened things up with an 8-2 lead. Arizona responded by ripping off a 10-0 run of their own, neutralizing any and all momentum held by the Buffs. Both teams traded blows for around 8 minutes, in what looked like would be an absolute battle of a basketball game.

In that process, Eddie Lampkin picked up two fouls trying to contest Oumar Ballo in the paint. It was absolutely imperative for Lampkin to stay out of foul trouble, largely due to Colorado’s lack of size off the bench to stop Arizona’s star center, but that’s exactly what happened. Lampkin had to sit the final 13 minutes of the first half, which spelled the beginning of the end for Colorado.

Arizona’s guards are really talented and will punish teams from deep if they aren’t careful around the perimeter, which we saw in the first half of this game. Colorado started to get lax around the perimeter and opted to focus on Ballo in the paint, and Arizona took full advantage of the space that they were given. The Wildcats shot 5-9 from three point range, which was a massive difference-maker for U of A. Compounded with the fact that they also shot 10 of 12 from the free throw line, Arizona started to run up a sizable lead on the Buffs.

The Buffs didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the first either, making only 15 of their 31 FG attempts and 4 of their 11 shots from deep. It also didn’t help matters at Arizona completely locked down Cody Williams. Colorado’s star freshman’s impact was nearly non-existent, as he scored only 8 points and turned the ball over 5 times on Saturday.

Despite that, the Buffs did just enough to stick around and keep the game within reach before halftime. 11 huge Tristan da Silva points and 6 forced turnovers kept the Wildcats’ lead to around 10 points for most of the latter half of the first. The Buffs went to the break trailing 40-47, looking to reorganize and find a way to claw back into the game.

Arizona opened the second half hitting back-to-back threes, and that’s where things got ugly for Colorado. The Wildcats’ took impeccable care of the ball, while the Buffs couldn't keep the ball in their possession. Arizona turned the ball only three times in the second half, all of which came within garbage time. In contrast, the Buffs turned the ball over 10 times in the second half alone. The Buffs’ inability to handle the ball really sealed the deal, as Arizona scored 23 points off turnovers and won by a final score of 99-79.

It just wasn’t Colorado’s night at the CU Event Center on Saturday. The Buffs turned the ball over 16 total times and just couldn’t keep up with Arizona’s prolific offensive effort. Despite their frustrating team performance, KJ Simpson had a solid showing against the Wildcats. Colorado’s Pac-12 Player of the Year contender finished the game with 20 points and 9 assists, along with only one turnover. Tristan da Silva followed KJ’s suit, scoring 20 points of his own against Arizona.

The Buffs’ record now falls to 16-7 and are only 7-5 in conference play. Colorado desperately needed tonight’s Q1 win to bolster their tournament resume, but that just wasn’t meant to be. CU now sits at fourth place in the Pac-12 standings and is officially in major danger of missing the NCAA tournament. The Buffs now need to bounce back in a big way when they make their final Los Angeles roadtrip next weekend to face off against UCLA and USC.