SEATTLE — — Plenty of the star power was sitting on the end of the respective benches, cloaked in street clothes accessorized with shoulder harnesses and walking boots.
In the end, the bruised and battered Buffaloes wore the smiles as they walked the red carpet to the victorious locker room at KeyArena.
Ninth-seeded Colorado survived and advanced in the Pac-12 women's tournament with a 76-65 victory over No. 8 UCLA on Thursday.
The Buffs (17-13) will play No. 1 Stanford in the quarterfinals Friday (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network).
"We're not ready to be done playing yet," CU coach Linda Lappe said. "I think you can see how much intensity we played with in the second half that we want to keep playing. I'm just excited for our entire team."
Lappe's team, which was ranked as high as No. 12 in the polls before conference play began, refused to throw in the towel as the injured Jen Reese (15.0 ppg) and Jasmine Sborov (11 ppg) watched helplessly.
The injury-plagued Bruins (13-18) were without standout senior point guard Thea Lemberger due to the lingering effects of a concussion sustained against CU a week ago.
"With any team, adversity is going to come. So it's just about how you respond to adversity and how tough you're willing to be and how much you're willing to bounce back," Ashley Wilson said after scoring a career-high 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting. "We've done that all year long, no matter injuries or whatever.
"No team is going to feel sorry for you because you have injuries. You have to suit up and be ready to go the next day."
UCLA surged ahead in the second half on a 15-3 spurt capped with a basket by Dominique Williams to give her team a 46-38 lead with 14:15 remaining.
Sophomore guard Nirra Fields scored a game-high 24 points to put UCLA in position to win down the stretch. But the Bruins' seven-player rotation lost its legs down the stretch as Lappe deftly applied a trapping defense to speed up the pace of play.
"Right now it hurts that my season is ending, but I do want to give (Lappe) a lot of credit for how she's handled the difficult year as well," UCLA coach Cori Close said after going 0-3 against the Buffs this season. "But for me, I just love my team. If you would have told me I would feel this deeply and be so proud of a team with this record at the beginning of the year, I would have said you're crazy.
"I didn't want it to end."
Neither did the Wilson sisters.
Ashley Wilson stopped the bleeding with a transition hoop, and Brittany Wilson converted a turnover into a 3-pointer to get the Buffs within one possession.
Lauren Huggins made her first 3-pointer since Jan. 24 to tie the score, and Brittany Wilson gave CU a 48-46 lead with a tough shot in the paint to conclude the bracket-changing 10-0 run.
"We kind of flipped that switch at that point in time and really relied on each other and helped each other out both on the offensive end and defensive end," Lappe said.
Jamee Swan beat the shot clocked and swished a contested 18-footer to start the decisive 12-0 spurt by the Buffs. Ashley Wilson made a 3-pointer on the next possession, and Brittany Wilson's steal and layup gave CU a 65-54 lead with 3:53 remaining.
The Buffs went 8-for-8 at the free throw line over the final 1:15 to open the Pac-12 Tournament with a victory for the third consecutive year.
"I thought there was a segment in the second half where both teams were a little gassed, and I liked our toughness," Lappe said. "That's where all the games earlier in the season and our ability to bounce back from adversity, our ability to lose close games and keep fighting and not give up, you can see that sort of mentality at that point in time.
"Either team really could have broken, and I liked how we had that resolve, and we had that resiliency and kept coming at them."
Brittany Wilson finished with 17 points to lead the Buffs. Lexi Kresl scored nine of her 14 points in the second half, and Swan added 10 rebounds.
"I have the utmost respect for Linda Lappe and what she's doing at Colorado," Close said. "Both teams have had a ton of adversity, and I thought her team responded incredibly well today."
CU, which has won three of its last four games, lost 87-77 to the Cardinal (28-2) in the only regular season meeting between the teams on Jan. 12.
All-American forward Chiney Ogwumike leads the Pac-12 in scoring (27.0 ppg), field-goal percentage (.622) and is second in rebounding (12.1 rpg). The All-American forward had 34 points and 16 rebounds during Stanford's win at the Coors Events Center.
"We fought all year long, so now it's about time we get going," Ashley Wilson said. "We've got to guard the best player in the nation. Chiney is awesome."
Swan and Arielle Roberson did their best to match Ogwumike by combining for 39 points and 19 rebounds, but Stanford also went 10-for-21 from 3-point distance in Boulder.
"I think we're ready for them," Brittany Wilson said. "It's win or go home. So you lay it all on the floor, and we're ready. We don't look at the name on the jersey. We all have to come out and play 40 minutes. In the end, it's about who plays 40 minutes the best."