BOULDER, Colo. -- Cal got the early break it needed at Colorado on Sunday afternoon, and it didn't make a bit of difference in an 81-71 loss at the Coors Event Center.

Colorado's Andre Roberson, the nation's leading rebounder, picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and didn't play the rest of the first half.

"Their best player's out with two fouls early," Cal's Allen Crabbe said. "You just feel like that's our spark right there."

It wasn't. The Buffaloes didn't need him while racing to a 34-18 halftime lead in front of 10,132 fans and a dozen NBA scouts. The margin was fueled by frighteningly bad shooting by the Golden Bears.

California forward Robert Thurman, right, pulls down a rebound in front of Colorado guard Eli Stalzer, front left, and forward Shane Harris-Tunks in the
California forward Robert Thurman, right, pulls down a rebound in front of Colorado guard Eli Stalzer, front left, and forward Shane Harris-Tunks in the first half of an NCAA basketball game in Boulder, Colo., Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) ( David Zalubowski )

Cal (11-8, 3-4 Pac-12) shot just 20.6 percent (7 of 34) in the opening 20 minutes. At one point, the Bears scored two points in a span of 16 possessions.

"I thought our shot selection was random, thought we panic-shot a little bit," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "The ball was not moving -- that's as simple as I can put it."

Point guard Justin Cobbs and Pac-12 scoring leader Allen Crabbe led a Cal comeback in the second half, combining for 33 points. They had just 10 in the first half.

The Bears got as close as eight points in the final minute, before Colorado iced the game by making eight straight free throws.

Three days after winning at Utah, Montgomery speculated about his team's mindset as they faced the Buffaloes (14-6, 4-4) at 5,345-foot elevation, where they are 41-5 the past three seasons.

"You wonder if they really thought they could win," said Montgomery, noting that starting forward David Kravish was slowed by a minor ankle sprain. "You hate to think that, but that's how kids are. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"I'm just saying you don't know what's going on (in their heads). So we compounded (it) by just not making good decisions on the shots we took."

Cobbs, who led the Bears with 22 points, said he didn't enter the game with doubts.

Colorado guard Sabatino Chen, left, scrambles after a loose ball next to California forward David Kravish during the first half of an NCAA college
Colorado guard Sabatino Chen, left, scrambles after a loose ball next to California forward David Kravish during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Boulder, Colo., on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski) ( David Zalubowski )

"As a competitor, you never go into a game thinking you're going to lose," he said. "I feel like we can beat anyone if we just play together and play like we did in the second half. I don't think we came out with any mindset that we couldn't win."

The Bears were fortunate the game was as close as it was at halftime. Without 10 first-half turnovers by Colorado, Montgomery said, "it would have been a disaster."

Cal scored the first seven points of the second half to close to 34-25, but the Buffaloes shot 71.4 percent in the second half to overcome 10 more turnovers and the Bears' offensive surge.

Guard Askia Booker -- a former teammate of Crabbe's at Price High in Los Angeles -- led the Buffs with 20 points. Roberson finished with 15.

Crabbe totaled 21 points after producing just four at halftime on 1-for-7 shooting. It was the sixth time this season he has scored at least 16 points in the second half, but he has averaged only 6.5 points in the first half of those games, in which Cal is 3-3.

"Allen is unselfish, that's just his game," Cobbs said. "But you have to understand, on this team there's not a lot of guys who can do what he can do."

Crabbe said: "The times when I pass up shots, I'm overthinking. Whatever I need to do to help my team, I'm going to do. If I need to shoot more, I'm going to do that."

Cal scored 53 second-half points on 60 percent shooting.

"Hopefully, we start to figure out how we need to play, what shots we need to take and who needs to take them," Montgomery said. "That would be a great step forward for us."

For more on Cal sports, see the Bear Talk blog at ibabuzz.com/beartalk. Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/CalBearsBANG.