It may not have been as smooth or as easy as the Colorado women's basketball team wanted it to be, but the Buffaloes were more than happy with the final result.
Five Buffs scored in double figures en route to a 92-81 season-opening victory against Loyola Marymount on Saturday at Coors Events Center.
"We're 1-0; that's the goal," head coach Linda Lappe said.
Leading the way to that goal was freshman Kennedy Leonard, who had team highs in points (18) and assists (eight). Lauren Huggins added 16 points, Jamee Swan had 14, Alexis Robinson 13 and Haley Smith 10.
Leonard and Robinson were stellar in their college debuts. In addition to her 13 points, Robinson added seven assists and seven rebounds.
"Alexis and Kennedy came out and did what they do," Lappe said. "They are spark plugs. I thought Alexis' energy off the bench was huge. She came in and made some great offensive plays, but also was really solid defensively. I was happy with how they played."
Leonard got the starting nod at point guard and capitalized on the opportunity. She sank a 3-pointer to kick-start the night and finished it by nailing nine of 10 free throws in the final 1 minute, 43 seconds.
"It's a cool experience starting as a freshman in your first game," she said. "But, with each and every day, everyone grows. The team is the most important part. It doesn't matter if you start or not.
"We all play as hard as we can when we go in, we're all in sync when we go in. It was a really cool experience to get to start, but ... I think it's when you get in and how you play when you do get in (that matters)."
For the most part, the Buffs played well. They made 46 percent of their shots, including 53.3 percent from 3-point range. They also held LMU to 30.8 percent shooting.
The Buffs built a game-best 19-point lead with 7:45 to play, but then took the foot off the gas. The Lions went on an 18-4 run over the next 4 minutes, 20 seconds, to pull within 78-73.
CU went 12-for-14 at the free throw line down the stretch to pull away.
"It's nice to have a game that's worth a W in the columns, but it also gives us an opportunity to continue to find the things we need to work on," Huggins said. "We had a 20-point lead we ended up giving up, so just finishing games, playing tougher defense, making the second and third plays. It just gives us an opportunity (to improve)."
Huggins has improved quite a bit during her career, and on Saturday made her 64th appearance, but first in a starting role.
"It gives you more of an adrenaline rush than coming off the bench," she said. "The way that you continue to play while you are on the floor is either going to keep you on the floor or it's going to take you out.
On Saturday, Huggins was able to keep herself on the court, and she helped the Buffs improve to 37-5 in season openers, including 40-2 in home openers.
Swan sat out the first quarter for a violation of team rules, while junior Bri Watts missed the whole game for the same reason. ... CU had just nine players in uniform. Three of them fouled out and three others had four fouls. ... Sophie Taylor led the Lions with 25 points, while Cheyanne Wallace added 22.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.
Colorado 92, Loyola Marymount
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (0-1)
Wallace 5-13 11-15 22, Alford 2-8 6-6 10, Aimonetti 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor 10-15 1-3 25, Lopez-Wood 0-6 2-2 2, Velasco 0-2 0-0 0, Hughes 0-10 5-6 5, Johnson 1-3 3-4 5, Olson 0-0 0-0 0, Ilang 0-0 3-4 3, Cast 2-8 3-5 9. Totals 20-65 34-45 81
Ellis 0-1 0-0 0, Huggins 5-8 2-2 16, Correal 4-6 0-0 8, Leonard 4-16 9-10 18, Smith 4-7 2-2 10, Robinson 4-6 2-4 13, Thomas 0-2 4-4 4, Beard-Fails 3-*5 3-4 9, Swan 5-12 4-4 14. Totals 29-63 26-30 92
Halftime — CU 44-33. 3-point goals — LMU 7-21 (Taylor 4-5, Cast 2-6, Wallace 1-3, Lopez-Wood 0-2, Velasco 0-2, Hughes 0-3), CU 8-15 (Huggins 4-5, Robinson 3-3, Leonard 1-5, Thomas 0-2). Fouled out — Alford, Correal. Rebounds — LMU 25 (Taylor 10) CU 31 (Robinson 7). Assists — LMU 10 (Hughes 4), CU 23 (Leonard 8). Total fouls — LMU 29, CU 31 A — 2,432.