The Colorado Buffaloes’ matchup with the UCLA Bruins didn’t start all that differently from their Pac-12 Tournament battle with the Washington Huskies yesterday.

CU’s gritty defense stifled the UCLA attack, and created a window for the Buffaloes to open up a bit of a lead. Thanks to opening 4-for-5 from the field, they were able to open the game up with a 10-5 lead, but much like yesterday, that early trend was short-lived.

For the rest of the first half, no team would lead by a margin of more than six, and the lead changed 10 times.

The Bruins, led by Amari Bailey (who dropped 12 first-half points in just 11 first-half minutes), quickly awoke from their hibernation on offense, and scored eight of the next nine points, taking control of the game, and putting the Buffaloes at a two-point deficit.

But even as UCLA grabbed control of the game, CU was quick to leap off the mat, as Jalen Gabbidon connected on a deep three, got a lay-up, Ethan Wright connected on a three, and then Gabbidon connected on yet another three, on four consecutive offensive possessions.

Unfortunately, the Buffaloes failed to make up any ground, despite tallying 11 points on four possessions, as they allowed the Bruins to generate 10 points themselves on their four possessions.

Gabbidon and Wright, the two Ivy league transfers, were the heroes of the first half for the Boulder Bunch. They led the team with 10 points and eight points, respectively, while shooting a combined 7-for-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from three-point range. Gabbidon was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field in the first half.

The offensive flurry never quite reached that mid-half peak again, but both teams still struggled to create stops on defense, and seemingly couldn’t miss a shot on offense.

As a result, the UCLA lead hovered between four points and one point for much of the first half, but as they secured a 36-32 lead with a Tyger Campbell pull-up floater, CU finally managed to construct another run, and retake the lead.

Luke O’Brien, the hero from Wednesday’s game, hit a deep three, to narrow the lead to one point, the defense forced Tyger Campbell into a poor shot as the shot clock wound down, and Tristan Da Silva hit another long-range three-point shot, and the Colorado Buffaloes were back in the lead 38-36 — a lead they would carry into the half (though UCLA added a free throw).

Fortunately for the fans, this game’s highly competitive nature carried into the second half.

The Bruins connected on a right hook that cracked across the Buffaloes’ jaw, by opening the half up with an immediate deep three, erasing the late-half lead CU had secured, and putting UCLA back in the driver’s seat.

But Colorado quickly regained their composure, with a punch to the UCLA gut, as Luke O’Brien made a Bruin defender look silly on a flyby — which resulted in a two-point jumper for O’Brien — and Hammond connected on a short-range floater, giving CU a three-point lead. But again, that lead wouldn’t last long, as Tyger Campbell laced a deep three for the blue-and-gold, tying the game.

The back-and-forth nature would continue until, with a big three-point shot, Julian Hammond gave Colorado a 49-46 lead, and stirred the UCLA swarm into a raging frenzy, which resulted in the penultimate Bruin run.

UCLA constructed an 11-2 run, and even though Colorado responded with their own 10-3 flurry, from this point, the Bruins never really looked back.

The Buffaloes’ mini 10-3 run was punctuated with a Da Silva three-pointer, which put the Buffs in front 61-60, and reinvigorated the dreams of an upset, but it would be the last happy moment of the day for the CU faithful.

From that point on, CU was outscored 20-8 by UCLA.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. immediately retorted by draining a three-point shot in the face of Da Silva, stealing back whatever momentum the Buffaloes just gained, and with that shot, it seemed like the Bruins finally awoke from a hypnotic trance.

It was as-if they suddenly remembered that they were national title contenders, while Colorado was in the midst of a ‘reloading’ season, and once they remembered that fact, the game played out as one would expect.

Late, as they were trailing 69-61, the Colorado Buffaloes managed to piece together another mini run, thanks to Lawson Lovering converting some points in the paint and Tristan Da Silva connecting on a pair of shots, including a three-pointer, to make it a four-point game, with just over a minute to play, and the ball in Da Silva’s hands.

Unfortunately, as Da Silva pulled up for his final three-point attempt of the night, he came up just short, UCLA would gain control of the rebound, and would slowly salt the game away.

If that shot goes in, maybe the game plays out differently, and CU magically puts together a late comeback, but we’ll never know.

The final memorable moment of the Colorado Buffaloes’ 2022-2023 campaign came in the waning seconds of this match, as Tad Boyle suddenly became irate with officials, with the UCLA Bruins set to shoot free throws. Boyle erupted at the two officials, and after charging in their direction, was delivered a double-technical foul call, and was tossed from the game.

It was a dower moment to end the season, but nonetheless, the future is right for the Colorado Buffaloes basketball program, as we enter next season.

There’s a good chance first-team all-conference player Tristan Da Silva returns, as should second-team all-conference guard K.J. Simpson. The Buffaloes will also have young contributors Luke O’Brien, Julian Hammond and Lawson Lovering all a year younger, and, most importantly, will be adding Cody Williams to the mix — who’s ranked by some as the No. 1 player in his entire recruiting class.

Hang in there, Boulder.