Dance denied: CU Buffs’ Pac-12 tourney run ends against top-seeded Arizona – The Denver Post

LAS VEGAS — The NCAA Tournament hopes already were dim for the Colorado men’s basketball team.

Arizona turned the lights out on that dream on Friday night.

The Buffaloes’ hopes of crashing the Big Dance ended with an 82-72 loss against the top-seeded Wildcats in the Pac-12 Conference semifinals at T-Mobile Arena. CU had been aiming for its second consecutive title game berth, but instead will be forced to regroup while awaiting a likely invitation to the NIT.

An eye-opening advantage at the free throw line for Arizona, combined with a peculiar offensive showing in which the Buffs made twice as many 3-pointers as 2-pointers, proved to be debilitating for CU.

“Arizona was terrific tonight. They played like a number one seed and top five team in the country,” CU head coach Tad Boyle said. “I’m really proud of our guys for the way we fought, the way we competed. But as you look at the numbers on the stat sheet, you get outscored by 16 points at the foul line and they shoot 52 percent. The combination of that is really, really difficult to overcome.”

The start of the game was the exact opposite of CU’s cold opening sequence during its quarterfinal win against Oregon a day earlier, as both teams hit the floor filling up the net. The Buffs hit their first five shots, including a pair of opening 3-pointers from Jabari Walker. And after a Tristan da Silva 3-pointer, the Buffs held an early 16-8 lead.

In a furiously-paced opening half, the Wildcats wasted little time storming back. With CU leading 21-15 following the third of Walker’s five first-half 3-pointers, Arizona took the lead for good with a 16-3 run, scoring the final seven of those points in a row.

Arizona’s lead was 44-38 when the Buffs attempted to run the clock down for a final shot before halftime. Yet instead of pulling within four or even three, Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis stepped in front of a KJ Simpson pass and took it the other way for a 3-point play with three seconds remaining, giving the Wildcats a 47-38 lead at the break.

CU began the second half much like the game by raining down 3-pointers. Four of them — two from Evan Battey, and one apiece for Nique Clifford and Julian Hammond — got the Buffs within a point with just over 16 minutes remaining.

The Buffs remained close the rest of the way but couldn’t overcome a decidedly lopsided advantage for the Wildcats at the free throw line, in addition to foul trouble for Walker and Battey, both of whom had four fouls with more than 10 minutes still to play. Arizona went 24-for-25 on free throws while CU was just 8-for-10. CU knocked down a season-high 16 3-pointers, finishing 16-for-32, but it wasn’t nearly enough to overcome the free throw disparity, or Arizona’s final .520 shooting percentage. CU finished just 8-for-30 on 2-pointers.

“We fought foul trouble (against Oregon). We really fought it tonight,” Boyle said. “We tried to go zone there for a four-minute stretch to keep (Walker and Battey) in the game. But it wasn’t enough to overcome a really good Arizona team. They’re well-coached.”

Walker paced the Buffs with 19 points but scored only two after halftime. Keeshawn Barthelemy went 4-for-5 on 3-pointers and recorded 12 points, while Battey added 10 points.

The 32-team NIT field will be revealed Sunday evening at 7 p.m. MT on ESPNU, following the NCAA Tournament selection show. The Buffs have a decent chance of hosting a first-round home game next week.

“Their big guys were closer to me, so I didn’t get the same 3-point opportunities,” Walker said. “I just wanted to become a better play-maker in the second half. I got some other guys some good looks. The doubled me in the post a couple times. The dynamic of the game just changed in the second half.”

Fast break

What went right: CU knocked down a season-high 16 3-pointers, finishing 16-for-32, and the Buffs committed only four turnovers in the second half.

What went wrong: Arizona went 24-for-25 at the free throw line compared to 8-for-10 for CU. The Wildcats outrebounded the Buffs 36-27 and shot .520, the highest mark by a CU foe this season.

Star of the game: Jabari Walker. The sophomore forward propelled the Buffs to a hot start, hitting five 3-pointers in the first half before finishing with 19 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a career-high three blocked shots.

What’s next: The Buffs likely will play in the NIT for the fourth time in head coach Tad Boyle’s 12 seasons.

Pac-12 Conference Tournament semifinalNo. 2 Arizona 82, Colorado 72

COLORADO (21-11)Battey 4-9 0-0 10, Walker 6-10 2-2 19, da Silva 3-8 0-0 7, Clifford 2-7 1-2 6, Hammond 3-6 0-0 9, Simpson 1-10 5-6 7, O’Brien 1-5 0-0 2, Barthelemy 4-7 0-0 12. Totals 24-62 8-10 72.

ARIZONA (30-3)A.Tubelis 9-14 1-1 20, Koloko 3-4 2-2 8, Kier 3-8 6-6 13, Terry 3-4 4-4 12, Mathurin 3-11 2-2 10, Larsson 3-5 3-4 9, Ballo 2-4 6-6 10, Bal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-50 24-25 82.

Halftime — Arizona 47-38. 3-point field goals — Colorado 16-32 (Walker 5-6, Barthelemy 4-5, Hammond 3-5, Battey 2-5, da Silva 1-2, Clifford 1-3, O’Brien 0-1, Simpson 0-5), Arizona 6-15 (Terry 2-3, Mathurin 2-8, Kier 1-1, A.Tubelis 1-1, Larsson 0-2). Rebounds — Colorado 27 (Walker 5), Arizona 36 (A.Tubelis 11). Assists — Colorado 20 (Hammond, Simpson 5), Arizona 14 (Kier, Terry, Mathurin, Larsson 3). Total fouls — Colorado 21, Arizona 14.

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