"Well, obviously, we're disappointed in this result, but we lost to a darn good Arizona team," said Colorado head coach Tad Boyle. "I think the first thing you have to do is tip your hat to them. They're a hell of a team, hell of a program. They've had an unbelievable year."
Despite a good first half for the Buffaloes defensively and offensively, their entire game fell apart in the second half. They only made 5-22 shots from the field in the last half alone.
"We just couldn't get a rebound, and it's hard to get out in transition and run and get easy baskets when they're jumping over your backs and they're dunking the ball," junior guard Askia Booker said. "Those are big momentum swings."
Throughout the game, the Buffs struggled to get anything going on offense. They finished the night 15-51 from the field (29.4%), 4-8 from the three-point range (50.0%), and 9-14 from the free throw line (64.3%).
Arizona fared much better, going 23-49 from the field (46.9%), 6-17 from beyond the arc (35.3%), and 11-16 from the charity stripe (68.8%). They gained their biggest lead of the night with five minutes remaining when they went up by 22, 59-37.
Two Buffs lead the way on Colorado's offense as Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson contributed 12 and 11 points. Arizona had three double-digit scorers, led by Nick Johnson (16), T.J. McConnell (12), and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (12).
The game got off to a quick start Friday night, with the Buffaloes scoring the first two minutes in. That was their only lead of the game. Arizona quickly responded to get ahead, but the Buffs stayed right with them during the entire half.
Although the Wildcats held the lead for 18 minutes, Colorado was able to tie it up five separate times. Additionally, they only turned it over two times, whereas Arizona turned it over eight.
Arizona's biggest lead came with six minutes left, when they led by nine points, 22-13. Over the next five minutes, Colorado outscored the Wildcats 11-2 to tie the game at 24. In the final seconds of the half, Gabe York hit a three-point shot to put the Wildcats on top going into the half, 27-24.
Throughout the first, the Buffs shot decently. They went 10-29 from the field (34.5%), 3-5 from the three-point range (60.0%), and an uncharacteristic 1-5 from the foul line (20.0%). The Wildcats shot slightly better, going 11-29 from the field (37.9%), 4-10 from the three (40.0%), and only made one of their two free throws.
The Buffs' tight defense in the first half kept the Wildcats' scoring modest, and their ball-handling certainly helped them stay in the game as well.
The second half did not go over nearly as well for the Buffaloes. Arizona came out fighting, and completely dismantled them in the last 20 minutes of play. The Wildcats tightened their defense coming out and were relentless for the rest of the game.
They held the Buffs to 19 points in the second half as they put up 36 of their own and put the Buffs away 63-43. Arizona advances to the finals on Saturday, Mar. 15 and will take on the winner of the UCLA-Stanford matchup later tonight.
"We've got to put it behind us and move on and figure out where and when we're playing next," Boyle said.
Despite the loss, Colorado's season may not yet be over. They are expected to get a bid in the NCAA tournament, and the NCAA board will make that decision this coming Sunday.
"I'm hoping to get in the tournament," Boyle said. "I'm not going to be presumptuous and say we're in, because these guys weren't with us three years ago when our team didn't get in and deserved to get in. That was a hell of a team that got left out. I think we're in, but that's not for me to decide or anybody else in this room to decide."