Turnovers and other mistakes doom UCLA late in loss to Colorado

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Ben Bolch
·4 min read
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Colorado forward Evan Battey, right, is trapped with the ball by UCLA guard Jules Bernard.
Colorado forward Evan Battey, right, looks to pass in front of UCLA guard Jules Bernard, center, and forward Cody Riley during the first half of the Bruins' 70-61 loss Saturday. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

It was a deflating reversal, some of UCLA’s best basketball of the season followed by a 61/2-minute splat.

The mistakes kept on coming Saturday night against Colorado toward the end of a game that once seemed destined to go down to the final possession. A Jules Bernard double dribble. A Tyger Campbell forced pass and a charge. A Johnny Juzang travel coming out of a timeout.

Just when it seemed like the Bruins might have broken the spell of sloppy play, Campbell stripping the ball for a steal, Juzang threw away a pass in transition. By then UCLA’s blunders had fueled a 9-0 run by the Buffaloes.

UCLA couldn’t recover in a 70-61 setback at the CU Events Center, its six turnovers over the final 6 minutes 39 seconds providing an inglorious end to its four-game winning streak.

“We kind of panicked at the end,” Bruins guard Jaylen Clark acknowledged.

The Bruins (17-6 overall, 13-4 Pac-12 Conference) were left clinging to a half-game conference lead over USC, which had stumbled against Utah earlier in the day.

As if buoyed by the chance for standings separation, UCLA opened the game with a composed brand of basketball. The Bruins were patient on offense and played some of their best half-court defense of the season, staying with every shooter not named McKinley Wright IV after making what UCLA coach Mick Cronin described as some “egregious defensive things that we went over and over.”

The turnovers started after Campbell buried a three-pointer to give UCLA a 57-55 lead in what amounted to UCLA’s final highlight. Bernard grabbed a wayward pass for a steal, giving the Bruins a chance to extend their advantage, before double dribbling in the frontcourt.

“To me, in my mind,” Cronin said, “that changed the game.”

Things spiraled further when UCLA’s Cody Riley fouled out with 2:27 left and Cronin picked up a technical foul. Riley finished with seven points after taking just three shots.

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell, left, pressures Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV.
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell, left, pressures Colorado guard McKinley Wright IV as he tries to maintain control of the ball during the first half Saturday. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

“Two of his three shots, he had to get on the perimeter,” Cronin said. “Now, he posted up and they’re fouling him and grabbing him, it’s a physical game, so it’s hard to get him the ball sometimes when things are going a certain way. But we’ve got to get him the ball more. We’re not going to win a lot of games if he only gets three shot attempts.”

The Bruins finished with nine of their 14 turnovers in the second half, a losing recipe after having committed none in the second half of a win on this court last season on Colorado’s senior day.

Wright ensured himself a happy farewell this time with 26 points on 10-for-16 shooting for the Buffaloes (19-7, 13-6), who were able to withstand Juzang’s 25 points to beat the Bruins for the first time since Murry Bartow was their interim coach.

Clark added 10 points off the bench for UCLA, becoming the only other Bruin to reach double figures in scoring on a night they needed more production. Guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. finished with three points on one-for-six shooting, and Campbell uncharacteristically had as many turnovers (four) as assists.

“Candidly, I thought we tried to play too much individual basketball down the stretch,” Cronin said, “and therefore we had guys out of control and that’s why we had turnovers.”

It was the start of a weeklong stretch in which the Bruins will be unlikely underdogs, the Pac-12 leaders favored to lose every game left on their schedule because they’re playing on the road against the conference’s top challengers in addition to their home finale against USC.

“We’re going to find out over the next week what we’re made of,” Cronin said. “Are we a year away or are we ready for this? Are we going to get ready through each one of these trials, are we going to be tougher at winning time?”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.