What went right: CU played its best quarter in the fourth, outscoring the Rams 22-16. The offense clicked in that quarter and the Buffs did what they had to do to get back in the game and have a chance to win it.
What went wrong: For much of the night, the offense struggled. During the third quarter, the Buffs went 7 minutes, 16 seconds in between field goals, turning a two-point lead into a 10-point deficit.
Star of the game: Kennedy Leonard. The freshman was exceptional, scoring a career-high 21 points, dishing four assists and snagging five boards. Her layup with 3.6 seconds to go was nearly a game-winner.
What's next?: The Buffs will play at Long Beach State on Sunday at 3 p.m.
FORT COLLINS — With the game on the line in enemy territory, the young Colorado women's basketball team made a bunch of great plays down the stretch.
Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, rival Colorado State made one more.
CSU's Ellen Nystrom hit a jumper with 1.7 seconds to go to lift the Rams to a 64-63 win over the Buffs at Moby Arena on Wednesday night.
"You have to tip your hat to Nystrom," CU head coach Linda Lappe said. "Any game doesn't come down to the last play, but you want to be able to finish the last play."
Without a timeout, the Buffs had to go the length of the floor after Nystrom's jumper, but never got their hands on the inbounds pass, as CSU (6-1) won its 19th consecutive home game and the Buffs (3-3) dropped their second in a row.
It wasn't for a lack of effort, though.
Freshman Kennedy Leonard had a career-high 21 points and Jamee Swan had a sensational fourth quarter to finish with 12 points and nine boards for the Buffs.
Swan scored four consecutive points to pull the Buffs within a point, 60-59 with 2 minutes to go, and then Leonard hit a layup to give them a 61-60 lead with 1:26 to play.
Nystrom hit a layup with 13 seconds left to give the lead back to the Rams.
Coming out of a timeout, though, Leonard delivered for the Buffs, draining a layup with 3.6 seconds left to put the Buffs back on top, 63-62.
"I came off that screen, and the previous two times we ran it I got a layup," Leonard said. "I just had to attack. I put my head down, went in and tried to get the layup."
She did, but then CSU came through on its final chance. Despite the Buffs' Lauren Huggins having a hand in her face, Nystrom hit the game-winner.
"It was contested, but we need to be able to execute in the stretch if we want to be able to win big games like this," said Huggins, CU's only in-state player. "It's going to sting for a while."
More than anything, it was a scoring drought in the third quarter that hurt the Buffs.
CU scored the last five points of the first half, and started the second half on a 6-2 run. That was capped by a Leonard layup with 7:28 to go in the third to give the Buffs a 37-35 lead.
During the next 7:16, though, the Buffs got outscored 13-1, as they went 0-for-6 from the floor and committed four turnovers.
"It doesn't always come down to the last 10 seconds," Huggins said. "We have to come out stronger in the first half, first quarter, and we can't allow teams go on runs and have a 10-point lead going into the fourth quarter."
CSU had its biggest lead of the game, 48-38, before Leonard ended CU's drought with a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to play in the third.
In the fourth, the Buffs whittled away at the deficit, finally taking the lead in the final minutes.
"The third quarter was a little bit of a weak spot," Leonard said. "That was a little tough, but we were down 10 and we came back. We were ahead with 3 seconds left, so I think that says a lot about us coming back and being determined and buckling in."
That was the silver lining Lappe took out of this one. CSU is a veteran group that rarely loses at home, and CU's young squad nearly pulled off a victory.
"They put their hearts out there and played extremely hard," Lappe said of her players. "They executed down the stretch and did so many good things. We haven't been in this sort of scenario yet this year. There's a lot of things we can take from this. Now we just have to move on.
"What a great game. That would be a great game to watch. It was a great game to be a part of; two good teams playing pretty quality basketball.
"We just happened to be on the bad end of that."
COLORADO STATE 64, COLORADO 63
Swan 3-10 6-8 12, Correal 0-2 0-0 0, Leonard 7-13 4-5 21, Smith 3-7 0-0 6, Huggins 4-7 0-0 11, Ellis 1-1 0-0 2, Robinson 3-6 0-0 7, Watts 1-2 2, Thomas 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 23-53 10-13 63.
COLORADO STATE (6-1)
Hesseldal 0- 0-0 0, Gustavsson 8-13 4-6 22, Wharry 0-2 0-0 0, Nystrom 4-13 6-6 14, Patrick 4-8 1-2 11, Austgulen 0-2 0-0 0, Tvrdy 2-5 2-2 7, Kaiser 0-1 0-0 0, Kantzy 1-2 0-0 2, Arias 3-10 2-2 8. Totals 22-57 15-18 64.
Halftime — CSU 33-31. 3-point goals — CU 7-15 (Leonard 3-6, Huggins 3-5, Robinson 1-2, Thomas 0-2); CSU 5-10 (Gustavsson 2-2, Patrick 2-4. Tvrdy 1-2, Austgulen 0-1, Kanty 0-1).Fouled out — Wharry. Rebounds — CU 37 (Swan 9); CSU 32 (Gustavsson 7) Assists — CU 12 (Leonard 4); CSU 16 (Nystrom 8). Total fouls —CU 20, CSU 15. A — 2,049.