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UCLA defeats Colorado to clinch its first Pac-12 championship in a decade

It was a natural elevation at 5,346 feet above sea level.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. swung the ball off the underside of the scoreboard. Tyger Campbell and Dylan Andrews exchanged a flying body bump and then a hug.

For the first time in a decade, UCLA is the outright Pac-12 champion.

The fourth-ranked Bruins got there after making key plays along the stretch to clinch a 60-56 victory over Colorado at the CU Events Center on Sunday afternoon.

Adem Bona blocked a driving layup by Colorado’s KJ Simpson, leading to a breakaway dunk by Amari Bailey that gave UCLA a 58-54 lead with 16 seconds left. Colorado got two free throws with nine seconds left after Jaylen Clark fouled while fighting for a rebound, but Jaquez hurled a long inbound pass to Bailey for a breakout thwarted by a foul.

Bailey made both free throws with seven seconds left to extend the advantage to four points and Campbell stole Colorado’s final pass, sparking a celebration for the Bruins (25-4 overall, 16-2 Pac-12) as they enjoyed their first Pac-12 regular season championship since the 2012–13 season.

UCLA has two games left before the Pac-12 Tournament. They will get into a much more relaxed setting after the Bruins overcome a 10-point deficit in the first half.

An energetic burst to begin the second half fueled by newfound defensive strength gave UCLA a 38–32 lead before the game largely devolved into a free-throw battle with both teams enduring cold shooting.

Colorado eventually took a 45–44 lead on Tristan da Silva’s three-pointer with 8:13, taking advantage of the Bruins missing seven consecutive field goals in seven minutes. Da Silva later left the game with an ankle injury.

It felt like a small miracle that UCLA trailed only 30-28 at halftime, considering all the ways the Bruins struggled. They had taken bad pictures. Made bad passes. Got out of hand.

The crowd roared as Colorado guard Quincy Allen’s three-pointer pushed the Buffaloes to a 21-11 lead. That was around the time the Bruins finally decided to play some defense, with Colorado holding mostly free throws for the rest of the first half while UCLA slowly cleared its deficit. The Bruins were back in a basket after Clark lobbed Campbell for a layup.