Colorado women's basketball head coach JR Payne is typically one who teaches through positive reinforcement and a glass-half-full approach.
Giving up offensive rebounds is something she doesn't tolerate, though.
"It's one of the only things that we really punish for," Payne said, "because it is so crucial. We always say at the beginning of the year that an O-board will cost you a ball game ... if you don't secure defensive box-outs on the glass."
It wasn't the only factor Sunday, but giving up a pair of offensive rebounds in the final minute was critical in a 76-70 loss to No. 22 Arizona State at CU Events Center.
CU (10-4, 0-3 Pac-12) was down 11 with four minutes to play, but a 13-4 run pulled them within 70-68 with 55 seconds to play.
On ASU's ensuing possession, the Sun Devils missed a shot, but the Sun Devils' Kianna Ibis secured rebound. That led to two free throws, which both missed. Once again, Ibis was there for the offensive board. Ibis, who had a game-high 27 points, also drew a foul and buried both free throws to increase the lead to 72-68 with only 27.5 seconds to go.
"It's hard to win a game when you give up a free throw box out when we needed it," said senior guard Kennedy Leonard, who led CU with 20 points. "We had just said before in the huddle, 'Do not give up this free throw box out,' and we then we did it. That's just something we have to get better at. Hopefully after we run our Sweet 16 (CU's grueling 64 seconds of punishment for offensive rebounds), we'll never do it again."
It was a heart-breaking loss for the Buffs, who missed a golden opportunity with their first three conference games at home. They lost all three, including the last two coming down to the final moments.
"We're right there," Payne said. "It's like two little things from all of us, to do better or more efficiently. We're in every game due to heart and tenacity and pretty good execution and just flat out effort."
That flat-out effort gave them an opportunity at the upset against the Sun Devils (11-3, 2-1). CU had the lead after each of the first three quarters, with Leonard, Alexis Robinson (13 points) and Annika Jank (11 points) stepping up on both ends of the floor.
In the fourth, ASU found another gear, opening the frame with a 13-0 run to take its biggest lead, 64-53.
"There's been two games in a row where we could have (folded) and if we were a weaker, softer group of individuals, I think that team would fold," Payne said. "But, I think we're building a team here with tough, strong individuals that are willing to fight and sacrifice for each other in the moment."
Led by Quinessa Caylao-Do, who had seven of her 15 points in the last four minutes of the game, the Buffs fought back until the closing moments.
"I think it was just mental toughness," Caylao-Do said. "Our coaches preach a lot just never giving up and keep fighting. That was something we took on in the game."
Unfortunately for the Buffs, it wasn't enough to topple the Sun Devils.
"Eventually the wins will come, as long as we keep fighting," Leonard said. "Hopefully that hard work and perseverance will eventually come through and get us some wins."
Leonard passed Tracy Tripp (1985-89) for 10th place on CU's all-time scoring list, with 1,580 points. ... CU had four players score in double figures for the fifth game in a row. ... CU has started 0-3 in conference play for the first time since the 2015-16 season.
Arizona State 76, Colorado 70
ARIZONA STATE (11-3, 2-1 Pac-12)
Ibis 10-18 5-5 27, Johnson-Chapman 4-6 0-0 8, Richardson 1-3 0-0 3, Ryan 4-8 0-0 8, Ekmark 3-8 0-2 7, Hanson 1-2 0-0 2, Russell 2-5 4-4 9, Elenga 3-8 1-3 7, Mbulito 1-1 0-0 2, Van Hyfte 0-0 0-0 0, Ruden 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 30-64 10-14 76.
COLORADO (10-4, 0-3)
Tuitele 4-7 0-0 8, Caylao-Do 5-11 4-5 15, Robinson 6-16 0-0 13, Leonard 7-11 3-4 20, Hollingshed 0-3 0-0 0, Diop 0-0 0-0 0, Volcy 0-1 0-0 0, Clarke 1-2 0-0 3, Jank 4-10 2-2 11. Totals 27-61 9-11 70.
Arizona St. 13 20 18 25 - 76
Colorado 18 16 19 17 - 70
3-point goals - ASU 6-18 (Ibis 2-6, Ekmark 1-5, Ruden 1-2, Richardson 1-1, Russell 1-1, Ryan 0-2, Elenga 0-1), Colorado 7-24 (Leonard 3-7, Jank 1-6, Robinson 1-5, Caylao-Do 1-3, Clarke 1-2, Hollingshed 0-1). Rebounds - ASU 36 (Ibis 7), Colorado 33 (Hollingshed 8). Assists - ASU 12 (Richardson, Russell 3), Colorado 7 (Leonard 4). Steals - ASU 8 (Ibis, Ryan 2), Colorado 8 (Leonard 5). Turnovers - ASU 11, Colorado 13. Total fouls - ASU 14, Colorado 13. A - 2,024.