After gaining a 12-point lead late in the first half, the Colorado Buffaloes' defense fell apart in the second half, resulting in a 92-74 loss to the UCLA Bruins. With this road loss, the Buffaloes' record fell to 18-7 overall and 7-5 in conference play.
"When you let a team shoot 66% from the three and 62% from the field in the second half, you're not going to beat many teams when you give up 92 points," head coach Tad Boyle said. "Plus they were ultra-efficient offensively... And in the second half, holy cow, the flood gates opened."
In the second half, the Buffs were outscored 56-34 after holding a 40-36 lead over the Bruins at halftime. But despite the 18-point loss, the Buffaloes had a few bright spots to boast about.
For the first time ever in his college career, junior guard Askia Booker recorded a double-double with 16 points and an impressive 12 assists. It was the first time since 2001 that a Colorado player had recorded at least 12 assists; on Jan. 2 of that year, Jose Winston recorded 15 against Coppin State.
Concerning his career-high assists performance on Thursday night, Booker said, "I'm just trying to get everybody involved, especially in transition. I feel like I'm one of the fastest guards in the league and maybe in the country when I have the ball in my hands. I draw everybody, I try to find open men and help them make the right decision."
Sophomore forward Josh Scott also recorded his sixth 20+-point game of the season and the eighth of his career after leading the team with 20 points on Thursday night. Aside from Booker and Scott, two more Buffs contributed with double-digit scoring: Xavier Johnson (14) and Xavier Talton (10).
After shooting exceptionally well in the first half, the Buffs declined on nearly all aspects of the floor in the second. For the game, they finished with 28-61 from the field (45.9%), 7-23 from the three (30.4%), and 11-15 from the charity stripe (73.3%).
The Bruins, however, improved on their shooting in the second half. Overall, they shot 35-62 from the field (56.5%), 11-22 from the three-point range (50.0%), and went 11-12 from the free throw line (91.7%).
"This is a home floor (advantage), and they're going to shoot lights out here and they're going to do what they're supposed to do to win," Johnson said. "We weren't able to contain that and that's how we ended up with the loss."
Five Bruins scored in double-digits for the night, led by Kyle Anderson who recorded a game-high 22 points. He was closely followed by Jordan Adams (17), Bryce Alford (14), Travis Wear (13) and Norman Powell (10).
The first half started out a little shaky for the Buffs after going down by seven points, 9-2, in the first three minutes of play. But once the score read 15-8 at the 15:04 mark, the Buffs fought back with a 9-0 to gain their first lead of the game, 17-15.
The Bruins tied it back up right after that, but then the Buffs responded with a 11-1 run to gain their first double-digit lead in an out-of-state game this season, 28-18 with 8:29 remaining. Not two minutes later, they increased that lead to 12, 33-21.
From there on out, the Bruins fought back to get within four. By the time the buzzer sounded, they had gone on a 15-7 scoring tangent to bring the halftime score to 40-36.
Throughout the first half, the Buffs excelled on offense. They made 16-29 of their field goals (55.2%), 4-8 of their three-point shots (50.0%), and 4-5 of their free throws (80.0%). The Bruins also shot the ball well, going 15-30 from the field (50.0%), 3-10 from beyond the arc (30.0%), and 3-4 from the foul line (75.0%).
Askia Booker had a phenomenal first half after scoring nine points and tying his previous career-high mark in assists with seven. Despite Booker's nine points, Josh Scott led the team with a season-high 13 points in the first half, which he complemented with three rebounds.
After their first half performance, Booker said that "It's a confidence booster. We came in on the road and I don't think we've ever played like on the road, whether it be in the first half or a half at all."
Although no one on the Bruins squad scored in double digits during the first 20 minutes of play, Kyle Anderson led his team with nine points and six assists. Travis Wear was right behind him eight points and four rebounds.
In the second half, the Buffaloes fell apart. They managed to hold their first-half lead for the first six minutes of the next half, but then UCLA started to regain control. When they were down 53-50 with 14 minutes to go, the Bruins went on an 11-0 run to gain an eight-point lead.
It was about to get much worse for the Buffaloes. They went down by double figures multiple times throughout the rest of the game, and stopped scoring altogether during the last 3:53. They finally fell 92-74 after failing to muster up much of a defensive effort in the second half.
"I think they made a lot more adjustments coming out," Booker said. "They saw what we were doing and they were prepared for it in the second half. That's where we have to make adjustments: in the game and during the flow of the game."
Johnson, however, stayed positive in his outlook of the game.
"Overall, I think we had a pretty good game," Johnson said. "We just have to be able to contain their defense and play better team defense. We showed we can do that against Washington and other great teams. Now we have to show it against teams on the road and teams we don't usually play against."
The Buffaloes return to the court on Sunday, Feb. 16 and will visit the USC Trojans at 6:00 p.m.
"We have to bounce back, we have to have a short memory, and USC becomes a critical game for us now because we got to win some on the road now down the stretch," Boyle said.