I don't really have all that much to say about it. The Buffs simply spit the bit. According to KenPom, once Colorado took that 15-point lead, they had a 94% chance of winning the game. It took a concentrated effort of turnovers, missed front-ends, poor defense, and impotent guard play to spike that lead. If it didn't break my heart, I'd have been impressed by totality of suck on display down the stretch.
If you're looking for some positives, look no further than the healthy, successful return of Josh Scott to the lineup. Coming off the bench, Jelly put up a solid 17/3 in 23 minutes, showing off a number of deft and power moves around the rim that proved he was recovered from his ankle injury. Accompanying his performance, Wes Gordon stayed hot, putting up 13/7 and really powering the surge that built that fleeting lead. The problem was that their efforts in the paint were counteracted by some flat awful guard play. Dom Collier had one of his ugliest games in a CU uniform, turning the ball over six times and committing four fouls against just one rebound, with no points or assists to show for his 18 minutes. His fellow backcourt mates weren't all that much better, with George King matching Dom's turnover numbers (Colorado had 20 total, #sigh) and Josh Fortune needing 11 shots to get to 10 points.
|That turned in a hurry. From: KenPom|
CU now turns to another late evening tip with the UCLA Bruins. If they have any realistic designs on claiming a top-four seed int he upcoming Pac-12 tournament, they're going to have to nab this one, and earn a split in LA. The only problem? They've yet to win in Pauley. Oh boy. Better get to it...
Hype Music for the Evening: "You see me" by Childish Gambino (lyrics NSFW)
Asian girls everywhere... UCLA. Gambino, also known as Donald Glover of "Community," is a legit EGOT threat. Dude can do it all. This one, purely picked for the hook, is a personal favorite. Enjoy!
Tip-off from venerable Pauley Pavilion is set for 9pm this evening. Coverage can be found on FOX Sports 1, with the radio call on 850 KOA.
Click below for the preview...
When last we met -
There was no Hollywood ending to the LA trip last season. Following up on Askia Booker's transcendent 43-point performance in the first game against USC, the Buffs struggled to find the same spark and determination the succeeding Saturday in their 72-59 loss to the UCLA Bruins. Familiar keys from that ugly season were there: long scoring droughts, poor second half defense, a lack of urgency or efficiency in attack the rim on offense. Much like everything emanating from the town these days, this LA sequel was a dud. Zero out of five stars, would not watch again.
|No LA repeat for Ski and the Buffs last winter. From: Pac-12.com|
|Early heroics from Xavier Talton were short-lived. From: CUBuffs.com|
Honestly, this game was about what I expected. Barring a Ski-splosion, UCLA was always going to win this one in breezy fashion. It just hurt to see it go down in real time. Hopefully, with a more balanced approach, Colorado can pull their feet out of the fire, and earn the desperately sought after road split this evening.
Star Players -
It won't be easy, however. While on the surface the Bruins seem like a beatable proposition, they still offer a roster stocked with some of the best talent in the entire country. They're lead by Bryce Alford, the coach's son with a nose for scoring. The 6-3 junior point guard is a deadly shooter with a sense of the dramatic, one who seems to love the spotlight and the moment. Maybe not as pure of a shot artist as his dad was at Indiana, Alford can still stroke it, with 55 makes this season on 152 attempts from deep. That's not all, though. Bryce can be nasty off the dribble, especially when he's able to find an open shooter off his penetration, and the Bruins as a whole get a lot off of his versatility running the offense. It's no surprise, then, that he leads the conference in assists.
|Alford is the impetus behind most of what happens for the Bruins, #DaddyBall. From: the LA Times.|
|Hamilton is a pure scoring threat. From: @uclambb|
The dangers don't stop with that duo, either. Up front UCLA is anchored by traditional big man Tony Parker. The big 6-9, 260 lbs senior is a load in the paint, combining bull-in-a-china-shop power with a deft touch near the basket (essentially, what BuffNation hopes Tory Miller develops into). Near 75% of his attempts are at the rim, and the combination of Josh Scott and Wes Gordon will have their work cut out keeping him off the block. Tony's big problem, however, is foul trouble. He's averaging five fouls called per 40 minutes played, and, anecdotally, I can tell you he always seems to wrestle with the whistle when I tune in.
|Parker is a major presence under the rim. From: Kentucky.com|
The Bruins' starting five is usually rounded out by guard Aaron Holiday. A 6-1 freshman, Holiday has yet to really come into his own, and takes more of a deferential role in the UCLA attack, falling in behind Alford and Hamilton. The main backcourt reserve is Prince Ali (fabulous he), who is a jack-of-all-trades kind of talent. Supporting Parker and Welsh up front is a very interesting sophomore, Australian stretch-four Jonah Bolden. The 6-10 combo wing has seen a sharp uptick in minutes played (and even a couple of starts) recently, and has rewarded the confidence with 11/7 averages the last three games. After them, though, the roster pretty much stops, with UCLA 339th in the country in bench minutes.
The Bruins in 2015-16 -
The weird thing is, for all of that front-line talent on the roster, the Bruins have yet to prove capable of turning it into consistent winning basketball this season. There have been some highlight wins - over Kentucky, @ Gonzaga, and vs Arizona - but those have been answered by head-scratching losses - to Monmouth, Wake Forest, and Washington State. In conference play, the inconsistency has only shown duller, with UCLA going 3-6 over their last nine, dropping three of those losses at home, and proving incapable of winning two in a row. I would say this isn't even a 'good' basketball team now, with the Bruins clearly average (or worse) in a league filled with squads better than that.
|They can beat the Wildcats, but not the Cougs? From: Pac-12.com|
It's a better picture offensively, with an average efficiency over 1.12 points per possession. UCLA boasts an attack built around sharing the basketball (2nd in the league in assists per bucket) and those mid-range attempts (56% of points come in between the basket and the arc). The one knock I have here is their ability to get to the line. All those soft jumpers don't draw a lot of fouls, and the Bruins have been dead-last in league play in FTA ratio, getting under 19% of their points from the charity stripe. Where's the beef, so-to-say, that earns crunch-time points? If Alford's not going off late, they can quickly see games slip away.
|The Utes stole one late on Thursday. From: BlockU.com|
Year three of the Steve Alford experience in Westwood, and the returns are starting to turn south. After back-to-back Sweet Sixteen runs to start his tenure, this season has hit SoCal like a wet fart, burning what little good will had been salvaged from the first two campaigns. Watching USC take great strides on the other side of town certainly doesn't help, either, with the Trojans sweeping UCLA this season for the first time in six years. The Bruins are soft, inconsistent, and trending downwards; not a good look.
|Coach Alford has struggled in his search for consistency this season. From: Bleacher Report|
My record on the year: 11-3. Against the spread: 7-6-1. Optimistic/pessimistic: CU -1.3 pt/gm)
Lines as of Friday @ 8pm - CU +5.5, O/U 147.5
With the Bruins as inconsistent and soft as they are, I really want to pick the gritty Buffs to steal away with the win tonight, but I just don't see it. That loss at the Galen Center the other night is not the kind of implosion that you just get over, and should have some reverberations. I expect a dour start from Colorado in a gym where they've never won, leading to a deep hole that they never really recover from. The second half is better, but, with damage already done, a loss is a loss. Give me the Bruins with a cover.
UCLA 76 - CU 69
GO BUFFS! PROVE ME WRONG, AND BEAT THE BRUINS!