LAS VEGAS — Evan Battey scored 15 points and No. 23 Colorado shook off a sluggish start to beat California 61-58 in the Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals Thursday night.
The Buffaloes and Bears had a long wait after the two previous games went through three overtimes, setting up a true Pac-12 after dark game.
They played like it was Pac-12 shooting after dark once the game started, combining to miss 36 shots in the first half.
Colorado (25-7) finally got a few to fall, using a 15-3 run to go up 11, and withstood a late Cal run to close out a surprisingly difficult win over the tournament’s No. 11 seed.
The third-seeded Buffaloes will play No. 24 Southern California in Friday’s semifinals.
Cal (9-20) went on an 8-0 run keyed by Matt Bradley to get back in it and pulled within 61-58 on Jalen Celestine’s three-point play with 41 seconds left. Makale Foreman had a good look to tie it, but his 3-pointer rimmed out with 2 seconds left.
Grant Anticevich led the Bears with 11 points and Bradley had 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting before fouling out.
Cal had the biggest upset of the opening round by crushing rival Stanford 78-56.
The Bears and Colorado split the regular-season series, each winning on their home floor. Cal had won two conference games before beating the Buffaloes 71-62 on Feb. 13 behind Bradley’s career-high 29 points and late 3-pointer.
Colorado got a bye into the Pac-12 quarterfinals but looked more rusty than rested, needing more than five minutes to score.
The Buffaloes missed their first seven shots and kept clanging once they got the first one to fall, missing 14 of their first 19 shots. Leading scorer McKinley Wright was 1 for 7 in the first half, letting out a scream and balling his fists after one shot rimmed out.
Colorado went 8 of 28 and 1 of 6 from the arc in the first half — and led 24-20.
Cal, despite getting off to a better start, shot 8 of 24 from the floor, 3 of 12 from 3.
Cal did a good job of mucking up the game in the first half and went on a late run to make it close but missed one final shot to get bounced from the bracket.
Colorado needed a while to get going after getting a bye into the quarterfinals and the late start. The Buffaloes will need a better offensive performance if they’re going to get past No. 2 seed USC in the semifinals.
Cal’s frustrating season is over.
Colorado moves on to Friday’s semifinals against No. 23 USC.