As she does after a lot of games, Colorado women's basketball coach JR Payne held her daughter, Jordan, in her lap during the postgame press conference on Sunday.
At one point, senior guard Kennedy Leonard reached over and wiped away a tear dripping down Jordan's cheek.
Sunday was an emotional day at CU Events Center as the Buffaloes and their fans said goodbye to Leonard and Alexis Robinson, who played their final games in Boulder.
"These two have meant a lot to not just the basketball court, but to our family and to everyone in this community," Payne said. "Seeing my own family's emotion after this game is a testament to the incredible young ladies that we have, and they will definitely be sorely missed."
Unfortunately for the Buffs, they were unable to turn the emotion of the day into an inspired performance, digging an early hole and falling to last-place Washington, 60-46, in the final home game of the season.
Freshman Emma Clarke had a season-high 15 points to lead the Buffs (12-15, 2-14 Pac-12), who dropped to 12th place in the conference standings. Washington (9-18, 2-13) swept the season series from the Buffs and snapped a 17-game Pac-12 road losing streak.
Leonard had eight points and seven assists and then was overcome by emotions as she addressed the CEC crowd after the game.
"It's upsetting knowing that we didn't get a win and I didn't play very well, but it is what it is," she said.
Leonard was playing in her third game since her return from a foot injury that sidelined her for 10 games. Meanwhile, the Buffs essentially played without their other senior, guard Alexis Robinson.
Robinson got a ceremonial start, but was subbed out after the opening tip and missed her third straight game with a knee injury.
"Senior days are tough, because there's so much emotion that goes into the game and the lead up to it," Payne said. "All of that is really difficult — even more difficult because we only had one of our two seniors that were able to play today."
Payne wasn't using injuries as an excuse, however. On this day, the Buffs simply didn't play well enough.
"It just didn't go our way," Payne said. "We didn't shoot the ball particularly well, we got out-rebounded, didn't get to the free throw line — things that we typically do pretty well and things that for us typically lead to success."
The Buffs jumped to a quick 5-0 lead, but Washington closed the first quarter on a 21-2 run and never looked back. Two early charging fouls called on the Buffs changed the mindset, Payne said.
"I think it made us a little bit more hesitant," she said. "Our desire was to penetrate the paint and get to the basket, and when we were sort of penalized for that early in the game, I think that put us on our heels a little bit."
Clarke shot the Buffs back into the game, scoring 11 of her points in the second quarter.
"At the start of the game, everyone's focus was about the seniors and we were just trying to get a win for them," Clarke said. "We were trying to do everyone proud and for the fans and for Lex and Ken; just trying to go out hard and give it our all."
Washington, however, went on another run to open its biggest lead, 44-26, in the third, prompting a timeout from Payne.
CU responded after the timeout, closing the third on a 13-3 run to pull within eight, 47-39, going into the fourth. Washington put the game out of reach, however, with an 11-2 surge to open the final quarter.
Quinessa Caylao-Do added nine points and four rebounds for the Buffs, who were trying to win back-to-back Pac-12 games for the first time in more than a year.
"I'm just really disappointed for our team for the outcome today," Payne said.
Leonard passed Bridget Turner (1985-89) for eighth on CU's all-time scoring list, with 1,605 points. She also made her 109th career start, tying Mandy Nightingale (1998-02) for ninth in CU history. ... CU had won four consecutive senior day games before Sunday. ... Freshman Peanut Tuitele continues to battle injuries. She played 14 minutes in the first half, but just one after the break. ... Clarke's previous high point total was 12, against Samford on Dec. 20.
Washington 60, Colorado 46
WASHINGTON (9-18, 2-13 Pac-12)
Henson 6-11 2-2 17, Melgoza 6-18 3-3 17, Moser 1-2 0-0 3, Griggsby 0-1 0-0 0, Rees 3-8 0-0 6, Johnson 1-4 0-0 2, Hagstrom 1-1 0-0 3, Van Dyke 1-1 0-0 2, Rooks 1-2 0-0 3, Peterson 3-10 0-0 7. Totals 23-58 5-5 60.
COLORADO (12-15, 2-14)
Caylao-Do 3-11 2-4 9, Robinson 0-0 0-0 0, Leonard 3-10 1-1 8, Hollingshed 2-7 0-0 4, Tuitele 2-6 0-0 4, Clarke 6-11 0-0 15, Finau 1-3 0-0 2, Carter 0-2 0-0 0, Diop 0-1 1-2 1, Jank 1-4 1-2 3, Volcy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-55 5-9 46.
Washington 21 13 13 13 - 60
Colorado 7 17 15 7 - 46
3-point goals - Washington 9-27 (Henson 3-8, Melgoza 2-7, Peterson 1-5, Moser 1-2, Rooks 1-2, Hagstrom 1-1, Johnson 0-2). Colorado 5-23 (Clarke 3-7, Caylao-Do 1-5, Leonard 1-3, Hollingshed 0-2, Finau 0-2, Jank 0-2, Carter 0-1, Diop 0-1).
Rebounds - Washington 37 (Henson, Melgoza 8), Colorado 37 (Tuitele 6). Assists - Washington 11 (Henson, Melgoza, Moser 3), Colorado 13 (Leonard 7). Steals - Washington 9 (Henson 4), Colorado 4 (Leonard 3). Turnovers - Washington 19, Colorado 22. Total fouls - Washington 15, Colorado 10. Fouled out - None. A - 3,698.