Colorado extends Cal men’s losing skid to eight games

Coming off playing a solid first half against Washington on Saturday, Cal head men’s basketball coach Wyking Jones begged his players this week to put together consecutive good halves against Colorado.

The Bears apparently skewed the message.

They played an awful first half and couldn’t make up the difference with a solid second half Thursday night at Haas Pavilion, losing 68-59, extending their losing streak to eight games and increasing the possibility of a winless conference slate.

In two of its past three games, Cal (5-14, 0-7 Pac-12) has missed some of its best chances to break a conference losing skid that dates back to Feb. 3, 2018 against Oregon State. The Bears lost 82-59 on Jan. 17 to Washington State, which was projected to finish in the conference cellar, and added Thursday’s nine-point loss to Colorado (11-4, 2-5), which had beaten only the Cougars in conference play.

Colorado hadn’t won a road game since beating New Mexico on Dec. 11 and hadn’t won in Berkeley since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. The Buffaloes got a boost from sophomore point guard McKinley Wright, who returned from a shoulder injury and needed only seven shots to put his fingerprints all over the game.

He had eight points, four rebounds and four assists and orchestrated an offense that picked apart Cal’s defense with equal mix of scoring at the rim and driving and kicking to wide-open three-point shooters. Colorado had three players in double-digit scoring, including Tyler Bey (17 points, 14 rebounds) as it shot 50 percent and dished out 18 assists on 25 made field goals.

Cal got decent games from Justice Sueing (13 points) and Paris Austin (13 points and seven assists), but the rest of the team was, uh, less than decent. The guys not named Sueing and Austin shot 10-of-32 (31.3 percent).

It was a continued regression for the Cal offense, which had averaged 67.0 points on 38.7 percent shooting and committed 1.5 turnovers for each assist during the first seven games of the skid.

The Bears led for only 40 seconds and by as many as just three points.

Colorado hit its third three-pointer in the game’s opening five minutes to ignite an 11-1 run. Cal went without of field goal for nearly seven minutes during the stretch, and the Buffaloes extended their lead to 21-11 on a Siewert jumper with 8:46 remaining in the half

A Sueing layup finally snapped the Bears’ string of standing around and missing jumpers at the 6:25 mark of the first half, but they made only one field goal during the next 6 ½ minutes as Colorado bumped its advantage to 32-17.

On its seventh attempt, Cal finally made a three-pointer three minutes into the second half when Matt Bradley connected from the wing. By then, the Bears were already chasing a 16-point deficit, and Wright hadn’t even taken a shot.

Wright drilled a top-of-the-key three-pointer on Colorado’s next possession, and his squad still had an 11-point lead when he subbed out with 12 ½ minutes to play. His absence, however, sparked Cal’s 13-1 run to take a 54-53 lead on a pair of Bradley free throws with 7:04 left.

The Bears were still with within two points after Austin made a runner with 4:09 on the clock, but they played the final four-plus minutes without another field goal. Cal went 0-of-6 from the floor with a turnover in crunch time as Colorado had to work harder than it expected to close what was once an 18-point lead.

Rusty Simmons is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @Rusty_SFChron

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