BOULDER, Colo. -- The last time Cal's Jorge Gutierrez stepped on Coors Events Center floor, he led Abraham Lincoln High-Denver to a win in the Class 4A state championship game.
This visit wasn't as memorable for the Golden Bears' junior guard.
A head injury took Cal's leading scorer out of the game for the final 141/2 minutes, and the Bears saw their season end with an 89-72 loss to Colorado on Friday in the second round of the NIT.
"It's so disappointing," Gutierrez said. "I couldn't finish the game. I couldn't help my teammates win the game, so it's always disappointing."
Colorado's Alec Burks led all scorers with 25 points, while Danville native and former Monte Vista High star Cory Higgins had 22 for the Buffaloes (23-13), who set a school record for victories in a season.
Gutierrez led Cal (18-15) with 16 points, and Harper Kamp added 14.
Through the first 23-plus minutes, Cal was right in the game. Brandon Smith converted a three-point play to pull the Bears within 48-44 with 16:47 to play.
From there, Colorado went on a 16-3 run take its biggest lead of the game, 64-47, and the Bears never recovered.
"We didn't have a response for that," said Gutierrez, who had a personal cheering section of about 50 people. "They kept scoring, and we couldn't stop them."
Higgins made the big play in that run, getting a steal and a fast-break dunk. Cal's Emerson Murray was whistled for an intentional foul on the play. Higgins converted the three-point play, and Colorado kept the ball and scored two more points.
"Huge turnaround," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "Huge given the circumstances."
Seconds after that sequence, Gutierrez went down hard to the floor. He said somebody hit his knee, which caused him to fall and as he fell, he hit his head on another player's knee. Both Gutierrez and Montgomery said the trainers were more concerned with Gutierrez's head, which is why he didn't return.
"That was really unfortunate, both for him being home in Colorado and for us," Montgomery said.
Colorado's lead never dipped below eight points after that, as Higgins scored 19 of his points after halftime.
"It was lovely," Higgins said. "This is the first time I finally got to play against pretty much my dream school. It was good to beat them."
The Bears, who also played without center Markhuri Sanders-Frison (dislocated shoulder), did their best to hang in but were simply too depleted.
"I had combinations of people out there we've never had in a game before," Montgomery said. "If we do everything right, we're right there with them, but we didn't and so they win."