By Morris Phillips
BERKELEY, CA–Five consecutive halves of competitive basketball from the Golden Bears delivered the expected: two wins and a loss.
The loss came Thursday night at Haas Pavilion, 70-62 to Colorado as the Buffs seized control of a close game with a 14-1 run to start the second half. Cal’s 25 percent shooting after the break put an end to what had been a promising start, and a continuation of the club’s strong play during their sweep of the Oregon schools.
“We were pleased with our play on both ends in the first half, and then really disappointed with how we started the second half,” coach Mark Fox said. “We didn’t play well enough in the second half and I thought Colorado took advantage of our defensive play.”
The Bears shot 15 of 29 in the first half and led by seven at the break. But an opportunity was missed in the final minutes when they missed four 3’s and failed to go to halftime with a double-digit lead. The second half started with a string of empty possessions contrasting the Buffs’ aggressiveness that saw them take the ball to the basket repeatedly with success.
“I’m really pleased with the toughness we showed,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “Cal’s a physical team. We had to be tougher and stronger and we played that way.”
Cal’s close of the first half, and their drought to start the second saw them miss 22 of 25 shots. That took the home crowd out of the mix, and left the Bears in a tough spot, entirely of their making according to Fox.
“As soon as adversity hit, we didn’t respond the right way and I was certainly very disappointed in all of us tonight.”
What specifically changed? The Buffs defensive pressure. Cal enjoyed a string of open looks in the first half. That stopped after the break as Colorado gained intensity. And the Bears’ response wasn’t to match the visitors’ energy. That difference was reflected in a 43-28 edge in the rebounding for the visitors, and in Colorado’s 21 made free throws, a benefit of them taking the ball to the basket.
“We clawed our way back in by getting stops,” Boyle said. “We adjusted in the second half and turned it around.”
CU got 19 points each from Jabari Walker and freshman KJ Simpson. Evan Battey added 18.
Jalen Celestine and Grant Anticevich led Cal with just 11 points each, and Kuany Kuany added a season-best 10 in just 18 minutes off the bench.
The Bears continue their home stretch with a 3:00pm meeting with the Utah Utes on Saturday.