LAS VEGAS — Colorado's hopes of a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals upset over top-seeded Arizona came to a crashing halt in the second half Thursday at T-Mobile Arena.
Not coincidentally, the end came at the same time Buffs starting point guard McKinley Wright IVcrashed out of bounds and left the game with an ankle injury, helping pave the way for an 83-67 Arizona win.
Wright was injured with the Buffs trailing by just three, 42-39, early in the second half. Soon after he was helped from the floor, the Wildcats put together a 14-0 run to take a 58-41 lead and Colorado never seriously threatened again.
The loss dropped eighth-seeded Colorado to 17-15 while the 15th-ranked Wildcats improved to 25-7. The Buffs will now wait to see if they are extended an NIT invitation on Sunday, but head coach Tad Boylesaid his initial thought is that CU "is probably on the outside looking in."
CU senior George King led the Buffs with 19 points in his final Pac-12 game while sophomore Lucas Siewert chipped in 16.
The Buffs held UA star to just 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting, but Allonzo Trier scored 22 for the Wildcats and Dusan Ristic had a 16-point, 11-rebound double-double.
Colorado was 18-for-22 from the free throw line, but the Buffs were also whistled for 28 fouls to Arizona's 18, and the Wildcats hit 26 of their 38 free throws.
The Buffs shot just 38.5 percent from the field (22-for-52) while the Wildcats shot 44 percent (25-for-57).
"Today was not Colorado's day, obviously, and Arizona had a lot to do with that," Boyle said. "My hat goes off to them. They played well. They played better than us today. We weren't good enough. We weren't good enough rebounding the ball all game long. I thought a lot of 50-50 balls that could have gone either way went to Arizona, which, again, they deserve them because they got them. … It was a frustrating afternoon for us."
HOW IT HAPPENED: After a close first half, the Buff appeared ready to take the game down to the wire. The Buffs trailed by two at intermission and withstood an early UA run in the second half to pull back within three, 42-39, when Wright hit a jumper from the lane and Siewert hit a pair of free throws.
But when Wright went crashing into the crowd on the baseline after pursuing an offensive rebound, CU's hopes dimmed considerably. UA's Deandre Ayton scored at the other end on the play before a timeout could be called, and Wright was helped to the floor and later to the locker room.
"I was crashing the glass, doing my job," Wright said. "I just came down on it very awkwardly."
After Wright's exit, CU temporarily pulled back to within three on a pair of Namon Wright free throws, but the Wildcats answered with their 14-0 run to put the game away. The Buffs didn't help their cause, committing three turnovers in the stretch, each of which the Wildcats converted into buckets.
Arizona led by as much as 18 down the stretch, and Colorado was never able to close the gap to single digits again.
While Wright's injury no doubt had an effect on the Buffs, Boyle refused to use it as an excuse.
"McKinley's important to us, there is no doubt about that," Boyle said. "(But) again, our offense stalled at times today, like it has all year. We had some open looks that didn't go in.
But our defense and rebounding was not good enough for us to rely on today to keep us in the game. And that 14-0 run is a great example of that."
The big difference in the game came on the offensive boards, where Arizona outscored Colorado 10-2 on second-chance points; in turnovers, where 15 CU miscues led to 19 Arizona points; and from behind the 3-point line, where Colorado hit just 5 of 20 attempts one day after shooting 61 percent from three in a win over Arizona State. The Buffs made just one of 10 3-point tries after halftime.
"When McKinley Wright went down, that certainly hurt them," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "But I really liked our defense. We had plenty of transition opportunities because of our defense (the Wildcats recorded 11 steals) and that's when we're at our best."
Wright returned to the bench late in the game and wanted to return to play, but Boyle declined the offer.
"He wanted to go back in towards the end, but the trainer said he's pretty sore and tender," Boyle said. "If we could have gotten that thing within striking distance, I probably would have gone with him, but I certainly didn't want to risk him or his ankle for the sake of just putting him back in the game."
Colorado led early, holding a 17-12 edge after six straight points from Lucas Siewert. But following a timeout, the Wildcats answered with a 15-2 run to take a 27-19 lead with just under six minutes left in the half.
Colorado, though, answered with a 10-2 surge, fueled by eight points from King. The CU senior had a pair of 3-pointers and a drive to the hoop in the burst to tied the game at 29 before Arizona outscored Colorado 6-4 over the final three minutes to take a 35-33 lead into the locker room at halftime.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs arrived in Las Vegas knowing they needed to win four games to earn an NCAA Tournament automatic bid, or win one or two games to put them in the NIT mix. They will now wait until Sunday to see if they earn that NIT bid.
BOYLE ON NIT: Boyle said he wasn't overly optimistic that the Buffs would receive an NIT bid with their 17-15 record.
"I haven't looked at it close enough to know," he said. "I think we're probably on the outside looking in, but I'm hopeful. But I don't want to get these guys' hopes up. If we get an NIT bid, we'll go. We're not lobbying for it. There's a committee that's made up of smart people that will look at everything and if they feel like we're deserving, we'll be invited and we'll go. If not, our season's over with."
CU STANDOUTS: George King finished with 19 points and four rebounds. … McKinley Wright had eight points, five assists and four rebounds before his injury. … Lucas Siewert scored 16 points and grabbed three rebounds.
KEY STATISTICS: Arizona outscored Colorado 19-10 in points off turnovers, 10-2 on second-chance points and held a commanding 36-27 rebounding edge. … The Buffs shot just 25 percent (5-for-20) from 3-point range.
QUOTEWORTHY: "This has been an enjoyable group to coach. A group that I really love, and the future of Colorado basketball is bright given our young corps of freshmen. Unfortunately, for four seniors, this is the end of the road for them." CU head coach Tad Boyle
TURNING POINT: A 14-0 Arizona run soon after CU lost McKinley Wright to an injury was the decisive stretch in the second half.
NEXT UP: The Buffs will now wait to see if they are extended an invitation to the NIT on Sunday after the NCAA Tournament field is announced.
Colorado dropped to 11-6 in the Pac-12 Tournament, falling in the quarterfinal round for the fourth straight year. Colorado and Arizona remain the only two teams to win at least one Pac-12 Tournament game in each season since the league expanded in 2011-12.
Arizona improves its lead in the series to 18-13, winning 2 of 3 this year. Arizona improved to 4-1 against Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament, winning its fourth straight. This was the third straight year, and sixth time in seven seasons, the Buffaloes and Wildcats have met in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Colorado was 17 of 31 (.548) from 3-point range in the first three halves of the Pac-12 Tournament but made just 1 of 10 over the final 20 minutes against Arizona.
Colorado was 36 of 42 (.857) from the free throw line in its two Pac-12 Tournament games.
Colorado was called for a season-high 28 fouls.
Arizona’s 26 free throws made and 38 attempted were both season highs by a Colorado opponent.
Colorado’s 27 rebounds was its second-lowest mark of the season, trailing only the 25 at Arizona on Jan. 25.
George King (19 points, 4 rebounds, 6-12 FG) moved into 18th place in career scoring at 1,294 and 14th in rebounds at 681. He was 2 of 3 from 3-point range, increasing his career numbers to 181 of 451 from downtown. His career percentage of .401
ranks second in team history. King played in his 127th career game, tying for seventh on CU’s all-time list.
McKinley Wright IV (8 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) he leaped from fourth to second on CU’s single-season list for assists with 175, passing Jay Humphries who had 174 in 1982-83 and 173 in 1983-84. His 5.4 per game average is seventh in one season. He is already 35th on Colorado’s career assists list. His 454 points are the fourth most by a freshman in team history.
Lucas Siewert (16 points, 3 rebounds, 6-6 FT) logged his fifth straight game scoring in double figures averaging 14.0 points during that span. He has 12 career double-figure scoring games, with eight coming in the last 11 contests. His 6-6 performance from the line is his best without a miss.
Tyler Bey (7 points, 9 rebounds) averaged 9.5 rebounds during the Pac-12 Tournament. It was his fifth game with at least nine rebounds.