In the second round of the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas, Colorado pulled out another close victory in the exact same fashion that they had the day before against USC. California's Justin Cobbs missed a last-second shot that would have ultimately sent the game into overtime, handing the Buffs their second straight 59-56 win.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team and the way they played today and how they've represented this university and our program," head coach Tad Boyle said after the game. "All you can ask for out of your team is that they battle and they compete, and our guys did that today.
Going into this game, the Buffs knew they had something to prove. Last week at California, they fell to the Golden Bears by one point in overtime. This time, both teams were trying to make a statement to the NCAA board, and the Buffs solidified their spot in the Big Dance this year. California is still questionable.
With this win, the Buffaloes improved this season's record to 23-10 and now hold the third spot for the most wins in program history.
Throughout the game, Colorado distributed its scoring between four explosive offensive players. Askia Booker led the way with 17 points, and was closely followed by Xavier Talton (13), Josh Scott (11), and Xavier Johnson (10).
For the night, the Buffs produced well on offense. They went 22-50 from the field (44.0%), 6-20 from behind the arc (30.0%), and shot 9-14 from the foul line (64.3%). The Golden Bears shot similarly, going 22-53 from the field (41.5%), 5-22 from the three (22.7%), and 7-12 from the line (58.3%).
Thursday's game got off to a quick start, with Cal getting on the board first to gain the early lead. They held the lead for three and half minutes until the Buffs got ahead and started to take control.
The Buffs maintained a tight defense on the Golden Bears throughout the first half, and continued to dominate on the offensive end. They went up by as much as 13 points with four minutes left before finishing the half with a 31-22 lead.
"When you come down the stretch of games like this, it's the teams and the players that make plays that win," said Boyle of Colorado's defense. "Our guys did it today."
The Buffs looked good offensively in the first half. They shot 12-28 from the field (42.9%), 4-14 from downtown (28.6%), and sunk 3-4 free throws (75.0%). The Golden Bears, on the other hand, weren't as productive. They went 10-26 from the field (38.5%), 2-12 from the three (16.7%), and didn't make their one free throw attempt.
Colorado distributed their scoring nicely between six players, led by Booker who contributed nine. David Kravish led the Golden Bears with eight.
Cal opened the second half with two consecutive treys to close the gap to three points, but that wasn't about to faze the Buffs. They continued to make stops on defense and get the ball in the basket, and made their way to another double-digit lead in the first nine minutes, 47-37.
Then California gave the Buffs a run for their money. They spend the next five minutes outscoring Colorado 7-2 to get within one point, 49-48. From there on out, they kept the game within five points.
The game ended in the exact same manner as Colorado's game against USC on Wednesday. The Buffs had a three-point cushion going into the final seconds of the game, and Justin Cobbs missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer that would have tied the game. The Buffs pulled it out to survive another day, 59-56.
"It's a scary feeling knowing that there are good players out there and they can make shots over hands," Talton said concerning Cobbs' final shot. "It really comes down to us not having to get to that point and not having them get the last shot."
With this win, the Buffs advance to the semifinals of the tournament and will go head to head against Arizona at 1:00 p.m. MST.
Booker believed that tomorrow's game against Arizona would be a big one for both teams.
"It's a great rivalry in my eyes," Booker said. "They have great guards... We're going to have to keep them off the boards and take away their second chance points because that's where they're really good at. If we do that, I think we're giving our team a good chance to win."