The UCLA Bruins are rolling toward a Pac-12 title thanks to a little help from the Colorado Buffaloes. If the Bruins want to stay atop the conference standings, they will need to show their appreciation by beating Colorado on Saturday night.
UCLA (17-5, 13-3 Pac-12) has won four in a row and is coming off a 76-61 win at Utah on Thursday night, a game that was less stressful than its comeback win against Arizona State last weekend. The Bruins are a half-game ahead of USC, and that margin is courtesy of the Buffaloes beating the Trojans 80-62 in Boulder on Thursday night.
Colorado (18-7, 12-6) still has faint hopes of capturing its first Pac-12 title, and a win over UCLA would help that cause. The Buffaloes already set a program high for Pac-12 wins and don't want to let up with two games left in the regular season. They are already assured of finishing at least fourth in the standings, which means they get a first-round bye in the conference tournament in Las Vegas.
Colorado has goals beyond Las Vegas -- the NCAA Tournament. The Buffaloes were likely in last year's dance before the pandemic canceled the event and it has made them hungry.
"Since I've gotten here is something that we look forward to this year. We really want to be there," McKinley Wright Sr. said after Thursday's game. "We can get there and make a run but now we stare at unfinished business."
That starts with UCLA on Saturday night. The Bruins won the first meeting, 65-62, at home on Jan. 2, and enter Saturday with some momentum. Four players scored in double figures in Thursday's win, giving them much-needed balance.
"I've said it a lot this season, we have a lot of weapons," said Jules Bernard, who led UCLA with 19 points against Utah. "When we play together and play with confidence, I feel like we are a very tough team to stop, especially when our defense is going like it was today."
Colorado coach Tad Boyle said some of his team's disappointing losses have come when the defense is lacking. When the Buffaloes are focused they're tough to beat.
"When we play at a high level on the defensive end and rebound the ball, we can beat anybody," he said.
--Field Level Media