I must confess something: I was a little bit skeptical about UCLA’s chances in Boulder against a good Colorado team that won the Pac-12 Tournament last season, sported an 11-4 record with a home mark of 52-7 since 2010, and had a host of Buffalo students and fans waiting since 1963 – the last time the Bruins visited Boulder – to host one of college basketball’s iconic teams.
And to possibly get a huge win against them to show that they have arrived on the college basketball scene, or at least have come a long way in doing so.
The fact that UCLA showed much heart and character in beating Colorado on Saturday, 78-75, does much for their season prospects and answered some questions as to whether Ben Howland’s team, with its freshmen in key roles, can win on the road in front of hostile crowds.
Not to mention in Colorado’s high altitude that is known to wear out opposing teams. “To be at 5,345 feet above sea level and win is a great thing,” Howland said after his Bruins handed the Buffaloes their first home loss of the season.
It was UCLA’s ninth straight triumph and left them all alone in first place in Pac-12 conference play at 4-0, the Bruins now standing with an overall record of 14-3.
Travis Wear had his best game as a Bruin in scoring a team-high 23 points, making 11 of 17 shots including some extremely clutch baskets in the last few moments to silence a wild and rocking Buffaloes crowd chomping at the bit for a win. Being down by as many as 13 points in the second half, they had a chance to send the game into overtime at the end, but Askia Booker’s three-point try bounced off the rim as time expired.
Commented Wear on his clutch baskets after the win, “It feels good to hit a shot and silence the crowd.”
Jordan Adams was one of three other Bruins in double figures as he scored 18 points, while Shabazz Muhammad had 14 and Kyle Anderson led UCLA with ten rebounds to go along with his 12 points, including a perfect six-for-six from the free throw line, which undoubtedly was a crucial factor in UCLA winning.
Being that Colorado, now at 1-3 in the Pac-12 (11-5 overall), made the NCAA tournament last year while UCLA didn’t and is on a redemption crusade of sorts, this was a statement game for both teams, a game that, in the end, gave the Bruins some much-needed confidence that will be handy as conference play continues and they head home for their next two contests.
Oregon State Beavers, Pauley Pavilion, Thursday, January 17th, 6:00 p.m.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: For the first time since their disastrous loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UCLA is ranked as the AP poll has the Bruins at number 24.