The Colorado Buffaloes play their last home game of the season in a position not many predicted when the Pac-12 Conference began in January.
Colorado, ranked No. 18, sits atop the standings after Thursday’s 70-66 win over USC and has a chance to finish with a 8-1 record at CU Events Center in conference if it can beat UCLA on Saturday afternoon.
The Buffaloes (21-6, 10-4 Pac-12) lost to the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 30, one of their four conference losses.
“We’ve got a score to settle against the Bruins because they whipped us in L.A,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said after Thursday’s win.
Getting even with UCLA (16-11, 9-5) is motivation enough with Saturday being the final home game for seniors Shane Gatling and Lucas Siewert. Giving the pair a win would send them off on a good note and keep the Buffaloes in position to win the title.
“We just want to send our seniors out the right way. We’ve got two seniors, Shane and Lucas, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get them two wins at our home,” Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV said this week. “Our crowd, they’ve been there for us. We’ve had a couple sellouts this year. Hope they bring the same energy they’ve been bringing and help us send these seniors out the right way.”
Wright and Tyler Bey have led the way this season for the Buffaloes. Bey and Wright are both averaging 14.5 points in conference play, and Bey leads the team in rebounding at 9.3 per game. Overall, Wright is 21st all-time in points in CU history and has a chance to move up before the conference tournament next month.
The Bruins are just a game behind the Buffaloes in the Pac-12 thanks to six wins in their last seven games. A win Saturday would give UCLA a sweep of Colorado and put it in position to win at least a share of the conference title.
Arizona and Arizona State are a half-game ahead of the Bruins.
UCLA hasn’t had much success playing at altitude the past couple of seasons but did pull out a 69-58 victory at Utah on Thursday night for its fourth straight win.
The team has tried to prepare for playing at a higher elevation. Freshman Jaime Jaquez Jr. is drawing on his experience of playing in Mexico City.
“In Mexico City, when I was there, it’s very high altitude, higher than Colorado or Utah,” Jaquez said this week. “But I’ve played (in Colorado), so it’s always an adjustment at first getting there. But I think we’re going to be alright, especially spending the day, spending the night there.”
The Bruins will face a Colorado team that’s coming off a scare at home against the Trojans. The Buffaloes trailed by 14 early in the game, went up by 12 late and held on for the four-point win.
“We just got to win now,” Wright said after Thursday’s game. “We know UCLA is going to give us their best shot as well. Everybody wants us to lose, nobody wants us to be first place in this Pac-12 so all we can worry about is ourselves and our teammates and our fans that are rooting for us and go get them.”
–Field Level Media