BOULDER, Colo. -- Josh Scott scored 18 points and Xavier Talton had a pivotal steal late in the game, helping Colorado hold off California 70-62 on Sunday.
The Buffaloes (17-5, 6-3 Pac-12) got off to a dreadful start, misfiring on 18 of their opening 19 shots, before finding their range against a stingy Bears defense. Dominique Collier added 14 points as Colorado split the season series with Cal (14-8, 4-5), which won 79-65 on New Year's Day.
Jaylen Brown, the Bears' leading scorer, struggled early but finished with 21 points - all in the second half.
Colorado led by as many as 17 in the second half, and appeared cruising toward a blowout. But the Bears rallied back and trimmed it to four on a 3-pointer by Brown with 1:56 remaining.
Moments later, Talton blocked a pass and grabbed the loose ball, helping the Buffaloes hang on for their fifth victory in six games and remain in the thick of the Pac-12 race.
Cal was without Tyrone Wallace, averaging 15.4 points a game, for a fourth straight game after the senior guard broke a bone in his right hand in practice on Jan. 16. He will be sidelined another few weeks.
There was a comical moment in the middle of a tense game when Tre'Shaun Fletcher stepped out of his left shoe as he fell to the ground with 5:11 remaining. He maintained his dribble, passed the ball to Scott and then tossed his shoe into the crowd to get it off the court. Moments later, the officials stopped the game so the stocking-footed Fletcher could retrieve his sneaker.
It wasn't exactly the start Colorado envisioned: Missing its first seven shots and making the fans stand through the shooting slump. The crowd doesn't sit until the Buffaloes make their opening basket, which finally happened on Scott's layup at 14:41.
But it was exactly how the Buffaloes imagined closing a half: On a 34-11 run that allowed them to take a 37-23 lead at halftime.
After their rough start, the Buffaloes hit 12 of 17 and their defense held Brown scoreless in the opening half.
California: Before the game, Wallace was on the court shooting left-handed jumpers with his right one in a cast. ... The series is tied at five since Colorado joined the conference in 2011-12. ... The Bears were heading to the airport right away to beat a snow storm that was expected to hit the area.
Colorado: The school held a "Tom Apke Era" reunion this weekend, with the former Colorado coach and his players honored at halftime. Apke had a 59-81 record for Colorado from 1981-86. ... Scott moved into ninth place on school's all-time scoring list. ... George King finished with 13 points.
Cal hosts Stanford on Saturday.
Colorado plays at Oregon on Thursday.