BOULDER, Colo. (AP)Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 17 points and Tyger Campbell had 13 of his 14 points in the second half as No. 4 UCLA hung on to beat Colorado 60-56 on Sunday.
Amari Bailey added 11 points for UCLA (25-4, 16-2 Pac-12), which won its eighth in a row to close out an undefeated February and clinch the regular-season conference title.
”This doesn’t change anything,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. ”Our goal along the way was going to have to be winning the Pac-12 to try to be able to stay in the West (for the NCAA Tournament). So, we’ve got more games to win to be able to try to accomplish that goal. Also, we have the longest home winning streak (23 games) in the country we take a lot of pride in. So we’re focused on Arizona State.”
With the Pac-12 tournament and NCAA Tournament on the horizon, Jaquez agreed with his coach that now was not the time to rest on their regular-season title.
”That was one of the goals that we had in the beginning of the year. And we accomplished it,” he said. ”And now, we’ve got two more goals that we want to accomplish, as well. And we’re just going to keep working hard.”
KJ Simpson had 14 points to lead Colorado (15-15, 7-12). Tristan da Silva, who left the game with just over five minutes remaining with an apparent lower leg injury, and Luke O’Brien each scored 13 points. Colorado nearly pulled off the upset against UCLA after coming off a lopsided loss to USC.
”There’s a different feeling today after the loss than after Thursday night’s loss, and something I talk to the players about, is that the reason that they’re down and disappointed tonight is because they fought their tails off,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. ”They competed their tails off, and they came up short.”
The Buffaloes fought back to take a 45-44 lead on da Silva’s 3-pointer with 8:13 remaining, capping an 8-2 run by the Buffaloes. The game remained tight down the stretch with the score tied twice in the final 3:41.
Jaquez made one of two free throws with 2:17 left to put UCLA on top by a point and Campbell added another basket for the Bruins. The Buffaloes got back within two points on a pair of free throws by Lawson Lovering with seven seconds remaining. Amari Bailey was fouled on the subsequent inbounds play and he made both free throws to secure the victory over Colorado, which did not get a shot off in the final seconds.
Down by a basket at the break, UCLA scored the first seven points of the second half to go in front 35-30. It was the Bruins’ first lead since Jaquez scored on a dunk in the opening minute of the game. Tyger Campbell capped the burst with a 3-pointer, the first make from beyond the arc for the Bruins, who went 0 for 6 in the first half.
UCLA missed 10 of its first 11 shots and fell behind 11-2 before gradually cutting into the deficit, pulling to within 30-28 on a layup by Jaylen Clark just before the halftime buzzer. Colorado couldn’t build on its early lead because of offensive problems of its own and actually finished the first half shooting 37.9%, some two percent lower than UCLA in the same span.
The Bruins made one of their 14 3-point tries but that was enough to extend a 23-year streak. Tyger Campbell’s 3-pointer early in the second half extended UCLA’s streak with at least one made 3-pointer to 782 games. The Bruins have not gone without a 3-pointer in a game since going 0 for 14 from beyond the arc in a 78-63 loss at then No. 2 Stanford on Feb. 3, 2000.
UCLA: The Bruins earned a gritty victory that will serve them well as they turn their attention to post-season tournament. They overcame a slow start and spotty offensive play by maintaining their composure against an underdog, but determined, opponent, leaning on their defensive intensity to see the game through to a win.
Colorado: The Buffaloes put up a strong effort against a high-powered UCLA team, going toe to toe with their opponent until the final moments. They showed they can compete with the best in the conference and, with a young squad, showed they have the potential to improve in the near future.
UCLA: Opens last regular season homestand Thursday against Arizona State ahead of Saturday’s finale against No. 7 Arizona. The Bruins are riding a 23-game home winning streak dating to last season, the longest active streak in the nation.
Colorado: Hosts Utah on Saturday in a regular-season finale.
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