BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Colorado’s strong first-half play was enough to make up for a less effective second half.
Askia Booker scored a career-high 20 points as Colorado built a big lead and then held off California’s second-half surge to win 81-71 on Sunday.
The Buffaloes were in complete control of a California team that struggled offensively in the first half. The Buffaloes were less dominating in the second half when the Golden Bears’ scoring duo of Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe heated up and made a game of it.
“Those two guys are prolific scorers,” Colorado point guard Spencer Dinwiddie said. “Once they started to get open looks, and feel themselves, you knew they were going to get going.”
Xavier Johnson had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Colorado (14-6, 4-4 Pac-12), which has won three in a row. Dinwiddie added 16 points and Andre Roberson 15 for the Buffaloes, who shot 59.6 percent from the field.
“You shoot 59 percent and you should win,” Colorado coach Tad Boyle said. “We shot 59 percent, but we overcame a lot of other ills and some deficiencies, 20 turnovers and allowing them to score 53 points in the second half.”
Colorado led 34-18 at the half. The Buffaloes improved to 9-1 at home despite turning the ball over 20 times.
“The thing about Cal is they are one of the better defensive teams,” Boyle said. “And then we let Cobbs and Crabbe get heated up at the end.”
Cobbs led California (11-8, 3-4) with 22 points. Crabbe, the Pac-12’s leading scorer, had 21 points, but rarely looked for his shot in the first half, going just 1 for 7 for four points at the break.
The Golden Bears scored just 18 points in the first half, their lowest total of the season, while shooting 21 percent. They improved to 61 percent in the second half and finished at 42 percent.
“I don’t know how to explain not making baskets,” California coach Mike Montgomery said. “Certainly, the kids want to make shots, they’re not thinking in terms of trying to miss shots.”
Crabbe’s lone basket of the first half got the Bears within 14-7, and then they missed their next seven shots before Cobbs’ layup made it 14-9. California made its next basket with 6:10 came when Colorado’s Johnson tipped in a shot by Cobbs.
“I guess we weren’t in rhythm,” said Crabbe of his team’s lack of offense. “We only made seven field goals in the half.”
The Buffaloes took a 16-point lead into the break as Johnson accounted for six points over the final 6:10. Colorado made half of its 26 shots and had 10 turnovers.
Crabbe matched his first-half output with four points in California’s 6-0 run to start the second half to get the Bears within 34-25. But the Buffs responded and Booker made his fourth 3-pointer to make it 46-32.
Roberson’s reverse layup and free throw and a layup by Johnson extended Colorado’s lead to 58-40. Crabbe made consecutive 3-pointers to get Cal back within 65-54 with 4:01 left.
Dinwiddie sealed the game by making eight free throws in the last 1:45.
Cal was a completely different team in the second half, shooting 61 percent from the field and 6 of 11 on 3-pointers.
“The thing is, we scored 53 points in the second half, we obviously did something well,” Montgomery said. “But they shot 70 percent in the second half, so I don’t know if either team was playing great defense.”
– By DALE BUBLITZ, Associated Press
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