Winning on the road in college basketball is not easy. And winning in Boulder continues to be tough for Arizona.
The second-ranked Wildcats lost their fifth straight game at the CU Events Center, falling 79-63 to Colorado on Saturday night. The loss prevented the UA (25-3, 15-2) from clinching the Pac-12 regular-season title and also snapped a 9-game win streak.
Arizona was one of a record seven Top 10 teams to lose on the road Saturday, along with No. 3 Auburn, No. 4, Purdue, No. 5 Baylor, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 9 Texas Tech and, after the UA was done, No. 1 Gonzaga. The Wildcats are now 8-3 in true road games this season.
Colorado (19-10, 11-8) shot 65.5 percent in the second half, turned 16 Arizona turnovers into 21 points and outscored the Wildcats 54-26 in the paint. The UA won the paint battle 42-28 in a 76-55 win over the Buffaloes in Tucson in January.
Azuolas Tublelis led Arizona with 13 points and Bennedict Mathurin had 12, but combined they were 6 of 20 from the field as the Wildcats shot 39.2 percent including 37 percent in the second half. They also registered a season-low 11 assists.
Arizona led 37-32 at the half despite being outscored 22-8 in the paint, missing 11 of 17 2-pointers and giving up 15 points to Colorado off turnovers or second-chance shots. It helped that the Buffaloes, who entered as the top 3-point shooting team in the Pac-12, were 1 of 9 from outside in the first half
Colorado, which was 12 of 35 from the field in the first half, made 6 of its first 7 shots in the second half to go up 45-42 with 16:40 left. Five straight points by freshman KJ Simpson, a former UA signee who had 17 points in the previous meeting in Tucson, made it 54-46 with 13:33 to go.
Simpson drained a 3 to make it 61-50 with 9:15 remaining, and Arizona was down 13 and without a point for more than four minutes before Tubelis made an and-1 to start a 7-0 run to get within 63-57 with 5:28 left. Colorado’s Keeshawn Bathelemy completed a 3-point play on the other end, though, and after a Pelle Larsson basket the Wildcats went another three minutes without scoring while the Buffs scored nine in a row.
The UA was outscored 38-21 over the final 18 minutes of the game.
Colorado missed its first 11 shots on the night, but Arizona didn’t take advantage, leading only 11-4 after the first eight minutes. The Buffaloes went on a 12-0 run to go up five with 9:50 left before halftime, but Arizona scored seven straight to retake the lead and hold it the rest of the first half.
The Wildcats went 13 of 14 from the line in the first half, getting into the bonus quickly, but got only eight free throw attempts in the second half and missed three.
Arizona finishes its final road trip of the regular season Tuesday at USC. The Wildcats, who beat the Trojans 72-63 in Tucson in late January, can wrap up the regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament with a victory in Los Angeles.