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Cal rematch another step in late-season plans for CU Buffs men's basketball

Feb. 27—Had the Colorado men's basketball team simply finished a job that practically was done already seven weeks ago at California, the Buffaloes' March margin for error might be a little more favorable.

The loss in the final Pac-12 visit to Berkeley, Calif., on Jan. 10 wasn't the only near-miss on the road that has stung the Buffs. Yet it was easily the most exasperating as CU wasted a 20-point lead in a four-point defeat. With CU chasing more secure footing in the NCAA Tournament picture, it will attempt to make amends against the Golden Bears when the final homestand of the regular season continues on Wednesday night.

"That was an opportunity lost, let's try to make up for it," CU head coach Tad Boyle said. "There's nothing we can do about it now. That game in Berkeley is well in the rear view mirror and we know we gave it away. They played well in the second half. They made shots.

"I've said it before — revenge is for suckers. We're not into that. We're just into trying to figure out a way to win on Wednesday. We understand that we played well enough to win, certainly offensively, against Cal. We just weren't good enough defensively."

CU faces the prospect of playing shorthanded once again, as Boyle reported that neither Julian Hammond III (knee) nor freshman standout Cody Williams (ankle) practiced on Tuesday with Boyle adding, "so I don't expect them (Wednesday). But I don't know."

The Buffs have played without at least one of their top seven rotation players — Hammond, Williams, KJ Simpson, Tristan da Silva, J'Vonne Hadley, Eddie Lampkin Jr. and Luke O'Brien — in 13 of 27 games this season. CU has missed two of those players in five of those games.

Hammond was the only player missing during last month's loss at Cal, but it was Williams' first game back after a seven-game absence from a left wrist injury. It also was da Silva's second game back in the lineup after missing three games due to an ankle injury.

CU led by 20 late in the first half of that game and still led by 19 about three minutes into the second half before the Bears came storming back, finishing with 14 3-pointers while turning 14 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points in a four-point decision.

The Buffs stood at No. 32 in Tuesday's NET rankings and go into the penultimate weekend of the regular season tied for fourth-place in the Pac-12 standings. An NCAA tourney berth and a top-four finish in the league (and a first-round bye at the conference tournament) still are within reach for the Buffs, but as Boyle reiterated, results like the previous outing against Cal have left CU with zero margin for error.

"Our margin for error is behind us," Boyle said. "There's some teams that have a margin for error in front of them. But we don't have that. Our margin was at Cal. Our margin for error was at Arizona State. We didn't take care of business in those games. So now these games become even more important.

"If they read it, they read it. If they see it, they see it. I can't keep it away from them. But I want them to be focused on winning the next game, which is Cal at home. And if they do that, and we take care of business down the stretch, all that stuff takes care of itself. But if you start prognosticating, looking ahead, I don't want that."

California Golden Bears at CU Buffs men's basketball

TIPOFF: Wednesday, 6 p.m., CU Events Center.

TV/RADIO: Pac-12 Network/KOA 850 AM and 94.1 FM.

RECORDS: Cal 13-15, 9-8 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 18-9, 9-7.

COACHES: Cal — Mark Madsen, 1st season (13-15, 83-66 overall); Colorado — Tad Boyle, 14th season (290-181, 346-247 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Cal — G Jaylon Tyson, 6-7, Jr. (20.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, .477 FG%); F Fardaws Aimaq, 6-11, Gr. (14.7 ppg, 11.3 rpg, .469 FG%); G Jalen Cone, 5-11, Gr. (13.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Keonte Kennedy, 6-5, Gr. (9.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Jalen Celestine, 6-7, R-Jr. (8.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, .453 3%). Colorado — G KJ Simpson, 6-2, Jr. (19.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.6 apg, .496 FG%, .458 3%); F Tristan da Silva, 6-9, Sr. (15.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, .469 FG%, .375 3%); G Cody Williams, 6-8, Fr. (13.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg, .590 FG%, .457 3%); G J'Vonne Hadley, 6-6, Sr. (11.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .561 FG%); C Eddie Lampkin Jr., 6-11, Sr. (9.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, .552 FG%); G Julian Hammond III, 6-2, Jr. (7.4 ppg, .400 3%); G/F Luke O'Brien, 6-8, Sr. (6.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, .404 3%).

NOTES: On Tuesday, Simpson was named to the watch list for the USBWA's Oscar Robertson Trophy as the player of the year, as well as the USBWA's watch list for All-American honors. Simpson already is on the watch lists for the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy. ... While the Buffs have struggled in Berkeley, the opposite has been the case against Cal in Boulder. CU has won its past six home games against the Bears and has gone 8-1 at home against Cal since joining the Pac-12. The Buffs are 14-2 all-time at home against Cal. ... The Golden Bears have won three consecutive games and are coming off a home sweep of the Oregon teams. ... The Buffs are 14-1 at home. ... Cal's 14 3-pointers in a home win against the Buffs on Jan. 10 were the most by a CU foe this season. ... The Bears' 20-point comeback win last month against CU was the program's largest since a 22-point comeback win against Stanford on Feb. 14, 2009. ... Da Silva needs 17 points to become the 20th CU player to reach 1,300 points in his career. ... The Buffs have gone 25-for-56 (.446) on 3-pointers in the past three games. ... CU plays its final regular season home game on Sunday against Stanford (7 p.m., FS1).