Since joining the Pac-12 conference in 2011-2012, Colorado had never came into Pauley Pavilion and escaped with a win, but things changed Saturday night in Westwood, as the Buffaloes defeated UCLA 68-59, in a game that caused the Bruins to fall out of first place in the standings, now dropping below Arizona and Stanford.
A season-high crowd of 10,164 inside Pauley Pavilion was hoping to see the Bruins put on a show like their 19-point victory over Utah on Thursday, but instead saw their team playing catch-up for 40 minutes of play.
“That was as poor as we’ve played all year,”UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “Our effort was poor and we were flat.”
Flat was safe to say an understatement, as the Buffaloes (11-7, 3-3) forced UCLA (13-5 overall, 4-2 Pac-12) to shoot a season low 37.1% from the field, 20% on three-point attempts.
UCLA center Thomas Welsh seemed to be the only bright spot for Bruins, as he finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds, on a very efficient 9 of 10 shots from the field.
“Outside of Tom, we just didn’t have much as far as good, concentrated effort and obviously you’re not going to win at this level when you don’t have enough guys collectively to do that,” Alford said. “And I take responsibility for that. That’s our job as coaches to make sure they’re ready to play and not only were we not ready to play, we had no energy, no effort and that’s hard to watch.”
UCLA’s leading scorer Aaron Holiday, came into the game averaging 19.4 points per game and was a point of emphasis from the jump for the Bruins.
“They obviously played great on me,” said Holiday, who finished with 10 points, four assists, and six turnovers as fatigue may have played a factor in his 40 minute performance. “I tried to get my teammates involved and obviously I have to do more for us to win.”
Holiday was trapped and double teamed throughout the game, forcing him to pass the ball to teammates on the wings for three-pointers.
However, they played right into the Buffaloes hands and only converted on 5 of 25 shots from long distance.
Free throws played a major factor in the game as well, as the Bruins were 8 of 18 from the charity stripe, for 44.4 percent, compared to Colorado who shot 50 percent from three-point range with 11 makes and 76.5 percent from the free throw line.
“I give Colorado an off a lot of credit, I thought they really played hard and played better, executed better,” said Alford.
UCLA also did not get their regular contributions from their young talent in Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as the two combined to make two of 12 three-pointers and shot 6 of 22 overall for the game, giving them 10 and 8 points, respectively.
“We got a lot of young guys doing it for the first time so maybe its understanding success. One thing I did tell them is why we played so well against Utah. We had great energy, great effort, good togetherness, we fought, I didn’t think we had any of that tonight,” added Alford.
UCLA scored the first basket of the game, as it was the only time they would see a lead, after Colorado went on a 32-15 run, with 3:21 left in the first half after a George King three-pointer.
The Bruins counter with a 12-5 run of their own to close the half, leaving the score at 39-29 after 20 minutes of play.
UCLA battled late and cut their deficit to only four points, 55-51 with 5:14 left thanks to a 10-0 personal run by Thomas Welsh.
However, Colorado responded with a 7-0 run that would push their lead back to double-digits, as George King ended up being the hero for the Buffaloes with his stat line of 26 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals.
King made a career-high six 3-pointers for the Buffaloes in their win and will now host Washington State (9-8 overall, 1-4 Pac-12) Thursday at 5:00 p.m. and Washington (13-5, 3-2 Pac-12) Saturday at 3:00 p.m.
The Bruins will now get ready for a road trip against the Oregon schools, first facing the Oregon State Beavers (10-7 overall, 2-3 Pac-12) Thursday at 8 p.m., before playing the Oregon Ducks (12-6 overall, 2-3 Pac-12) Saturday at 7:15 p.m.