What went right: The Buffs played their best quarter of the year in the third, outscoring the Huskies 35-16. That helped them turn an 18-point halftime deficit into a one-point lead going into the fourth.
What went wrong: CU's dismal first half made life difficult the rest of the night. Washington dominated the Buffs before intermission.
Player of the game: Alexis Robinson. The freshman finished with 13 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and no turnovers in 29 minutes.
What's next?: CU hosts Washington State on Monday at 8 p.m.
Moments after nailing the biggest 3-pointer of her young college basketball career, Alexis Robinson had an opportunity to sink an even bigger one.
Unfortunately for Robinson and the Colorado women's basketball team, her second shot wasn't as good as the first.
Robinson was just off the mark on a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds, and teammate Jamee Swan missed a put-back attempt at the buzzer as the Buffaloes fell to Washington, 76-74, on Saturday at Coors Events Center in the Pac-12 Conference opener.
"If it comes down to that again, I'd shoot it again and hopefully it would go in," said Robinson, a freshman. "Everything happens for a reason. Something better will come out of this, hopefully."
Colorado (5-7, 0-1 Pac-12) is hoping Saturday's game, while disappointing, is a learning experience for a young squad.
Down by as many as 20 points in the second half, and by 19 a minute into the second half, the Buffs staged a furious rally to nearly walk away with a victory.
"I thought we really grew up in the second half today," head coach Linda Lappe said.
The first half looked too much like the Buffs' up-and-down ride through non-conference play.
Despite having what Lappe called their best week of practice leading up to the game, the Buffs were nearly buried before the break.
Chantel Osahor converted a three-point play 31 seconds before intermission to give Washington (11-2, 2-0) its biggest lead, 46-26.
"We were not going at a good clip," Lappe said. "We were not playing hard enough. We weren't moving with a good enough sense of urgency, especially on the defensive end. I was disappointed in that first half."
Lappe's halftime speech clearly sparked something in the Buffs. They fell behind 49-30 early, but went on a 23-4 run over a span of 6 minutes to tie the game at 53-53.
"Coach Lappe in the locker room at halftime told us we're done giving up," said freshman Kennedy Leonard, who tied with Jamee Swan for the team lead with 19 points. "We just came out with a fire in our butts."
That fire led to an entertaining and tense finish.
Down 74-71, Robinson drilled a 3-pointer to tie the game with 56.9 seconds to play.
After the teams traded turnovers, Washington's Kelsey Plum, who leads the country in scoring, hit a pair of free throws to give the Huskies a 76-74 lead with 13.5 seconds to play.
CU got the exact look it wanted out of the last play. Swan posted up and with the Husky defense converging on her, she found a wide-open Robinson on the elbow.
"Lex had her feet set," Lappe said. "It was a great shot, it was right on line, it was just a little long."
Swan had a good look on the rebound, but that, too, was a bit off.
Despite their disappointment in the outcome, though, the Buffs came away encouraged.
"I'm really proud of our team," Lappe said. "I thought we showed some great strides in the second half."
CU's 35 points in the third quarter its most in any quarter this season. ... The Buffs used the same five players (Swan, Leonard, Robinson, Lauren Huggins and Haley Smith) for the entire second half. ... Washington has won five in a row against the Buffs. ... Plum, who came in averaging 28.1 points, finished with a season-low 18. ... CU had just 10 turnovers, but six came in the fourth quarter. ... Between the teams, just nine players scored, and all nine finished in double figures. ... Leonard had 14 of her points in the third quarter.
Washington 76, Colorado 74
WASHINGTON (11-2, 2-0 Pac-12)
Osahor 9-15 3-3 24, Walton 9-17 2-2 24, Collier 0-1 0-0 0, Plum 6-16 6-6 18, Ruiz 0-4 0-0 0, Gilling 4-4 2-4 10, Atchley 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 28-60 13-15 76..
COLORADO (5-7, 0-1 Pac-12)
Swan 9-19 1-2 19, Correal 0-0 0-0 0, Leonard 7-19 3-3 19, Smith 6-12 0-0 12, Huggins 4-6 0-0 11, Ellis 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 5-11 2-2 13, Watts 0-2 0-2 0, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Beard-Fails 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 31-71 6-9 74..
Score by quarters:Washington 22 24 16 14 — 76 Colorado 11 17 35 11 — 74
3-point goals — Washington 7-21 (Walton 4-8, Osahor 3-6, Plum 0-4, Ruiz 0-2, Atchley 0-1), Colorado 6-16 (Huggins 3-5, Leonard 2-6, Robinson 1-3, Smith 0-1, Thomas 0-1). Rebounds — Washington 34 (Osahor 11), Colorado 40 (Smith 8). Assists — Washington 15 (Plum 6), Colorado 18 (Leonard 6). Turnovers — Washington 11, Colorado 10. Total fouls — Washington 13, Colorado 13. Fouled out — None. A — 2,107.