By Morris Phillips
No. 24 Colorado didn’t like the way they played, but they were satisfied with how they finished in a 71-65 win at home on Thursday night.
Cal coach Mark Fox said he and his coaching staff would examine how they do things approaching road contests after dropping the first eight this season, but that didn’t change things at the CU Events Center. The Bears were tied at the half, and trailed by just two with 5:16 remaining, but fell victim to the Buffs late run.
“They sped the game up,” said Paris Austin, who had 15 points for the Bears.
“We found a way,” coach Tad Boyle said of his CU squad’s fifth consecutive win over Cal. “The sign of a somber locker room after a league win tells you that we have pretty high expectations of ourselves.”
For Cal, battling a ranked Pac-12 team in their environment in a game that was decided in the final minutes represented a sign of improvement. Of their nine road and neutral site losses, only a 64-60 defeat to Boston College at the Chase Center had been by single digits prior to this one. The Bears, coming off winning four of five at home, continue to improve, even if it doesn’t always show in the win column.
Matt Bradley led the Bears with 17 points, Andre Kelly had 12 on six of seven shooting. The Bears shot 63 percent from the floor in the first half–a season best–but couldn’t get keep the Buffs under wraps at the defensive end. In the final five minutes, Colorado was efficient and quick, scoring 19 of their 71-point total down the stretch.
Not familiar with the ascension of the Buffaloes? You’re not alone. Quietly, Boyle has fashioned a consistent contender in the Pac-12, and Thursday’s win matches the best 23-game start to a season in their program’s history, matching that of the 1968-69 Colorado team that won the Big 8. Sophomore Cliff Meely was Colorado’s star player that season, a power forward who would be named an All-American as a senior and a first round pick of the Rockets during the summer they moved from San Diego to Houston.
The Bears (10-12, 4-5) travel to Salt Lake City to face Utah on Saturday at 3pm.