How much work the Colorado Buffaloes needed to do in Las Vegas is up for debate, with some believing that Wednesday’s win over USC locked up a spot in the NCAA tournament. But it never hurts to keep winning, and Tad Boyle’s team did just that by beating California 59-56 in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal. Askia Booker scored 17 points and Xavier Talton added 13 for the Buffaloes, who will play No. 4 Arizona Friday night.
A 19-6 first half run gave Colorado the early separation it needed against the Golden Bears, who also arrived at the MGM Grand looking to strengthen its case for the selection committee. Rebounding proved to be key, with the Buffaloes finishing the game a plus-9 in rebounds and a plus-6 in second-chance points (10-4).
Friday’s game against the Pac-12 champions will be a significant challenge for the Buffaloes, who haven’t matched up particularly well with Arizona in either meeting. Arizona put on a clinic in the second meeting, limiting Colorado to 32.7% shooting while also making 22 of their 26 field goal attempts in the second half of that 88-61 beating.
Booker, Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson will all be key in the third meeting, but the fact of the matter is that Colorado will need contributions from all members of their rotation if they’re to win.
As for Cal this defeat is their fifth in the last seven games, with the Golden Bears dropping from “virtual lock” to make the NCAA tournament to a team that will be left to do nothing but wait and hope they’re selected. With no more games to play between now and Sunday California can do nothing but scoreboard watch, as they’ve lost the ability to control their own fate.