Halfway through the Pac-12 Conference schedule, the Colorado women's basketball team is sitting right in the middle of the standings, tied for sixth place.
That's not good enough, head coach Linda Lappe said on Sunday after her team struggled down the stretch in a 62-54 overtime loss to UCLA at Coors Events Center.
"We just have to figure out that we're better than average," Lappe said. "That's what we talked to our team about, is expecting to be at the top of the league and expecting to be the best."
Average might have been
Too many turnovers, too many missed shots and too many holes on defense allowed UCLA (10-10, 5-4) to steal this one.
The Bruins' Markel Walker scored six of her game-high 24 points in overtime, while Rebekah Gardner added 17 points. Lexy Kresl (15 points) and Chucky Jeffery (14) led the Buffs.
"You've got to give UCLA credit," Lappe said. "They did some nice things down the stretch. They were aggressive both offensively and defensively and really executed.
"We just gave away too many opportunities. We had so many opportunities to get ahead by ten, fifteen points, I felt like, at different parts in that game and we didn't take the opportunities. When UCLA wasn't playing well, we didn't go in for the kill. Any time you let a team hang around and hang around and hang round, they gain confidence."
One of those opportunities came early in the game, as UCLA had just nine points in the first six minutes. Those nine points were good enough for a seven-point lead, though, because CU opened the game by missing its first 13 field-goal attempts.
"I just think that we were really flustered at the beginning of the game, bobbling passing and dropping passes and turning the ball over," Jeffery said. "I think we were just going too fast and we never really got settled until later on in the first half.
"Coming out, we have to be way more focused."
Another opportunity came at halftime. The Buffs closed the half with a 5-0 run, capped by Jeffery's buzzer-beating jumper to give them a 24-23 lead. Then, they opened the second half with the first four points. That 9-0 surge gave CU a 28-23 lead, but it felt it should have been more, as UCLA, which dressed only eight players, scored one point in the first 3:53 of the second half.
"I felt like they were tired out of halftime," Lappe said. "They were short on all their shots, they couldn't score the ball, they were subbing. They were gassed and we didn't take advantage." Then, the Buffs closed the game by hitting only two field goals in the final 10:25 -- including the 5-minute overtime period.
Even with those disappointments, the Buffs had a shot to win.
Kresl buried three free throws to give the Buffs a 46-42 lead with 2:07 to play, but UCLA scored the final four points of regulation.
The Bruins then opened overtime with a 10-2 burst to pull away.
"They scored first and they kept going from there," Kresl said of overtime. "We didn't really fight back as early as we should have."
Once again, turnovers proved to be much too costly. The Buffs had 25, their second-highest total of the season. Ten of those came in the last 121/2 minutes, six of those by Jeffery.
"It's at the end of the game and it's tied and that's when you have to get stops and they up the pressure," said Jeffery. "They started switching screens and things like that and we just weren't reading them well, really. We weren't making the right reads and turning the ball over and that killed us."
Now the Buffs head into the second half of conference play looking to be better than average.
"One positive is that we didn't play well and we had a great shot to win at the end of the game," Lappe said. "It should be a positive for our team that we can compete with anybody. It's just a matter of taking the next step."