What went right: Not much. The Buffs did out-rebound Iowa, 41-33, but it didn't seem to matter the way Iowa shot the ball.
What went wrong: The normally sure-handed Buffs racked up 18 turnovers, struggled offensively and couldn't stop Iowa during a back-breaking 10-minute stretch of the first half.
Star of the game: Haley Smith. In her final game as a Buff, the senior scored 25 points and pulled down seven rebounds.
What's next: CU's season has come to a close and the Buffs now look ahead to next year.
Playing in front of its home fans, the Iowa women's basketball team didn't waste any time in burying Colorado on Thursday.
The host Hawkeyes jumped out to a huge first-half lead and Colorado was unable to recover in an 80-62 loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa in the third round of the Women's NIT.
Back in the postseason for the first time in three years, the Buffaloes (17-16) saw their bounce-back season come to a close. A year after going 7-23, they exceeded most outside expectations in coach JR Payne's first season.
"Unbelievably pleased, proud," Payne said of her team. "I told the team after the game in the locker room, 'No one expected this out of you.' This team, from one through 13 has really worked to make our program proud and overcome adversity, overcome obstacles that people thought we couldn't."
Unfortunately, the Buffs couldn't overcome their final obstacle.
In her final game, senior Haley Smith had 25 points and seven rebounds, but didn't get a lot of help offensively. The Buffs also couldn't overcome the hot-shooting Hawkeyes (20-13), who advanced to the quarterfinals.
Both teams sputtered out of the gates, but midway through the first quarter, Iowa's Hannah Stewart hit a jumper that sparked a 10-minute stretch that changed the game.
During those 10 minutes, Iowa went 14-of-16 from the floor and closed that surge on a 17-0 run that built the lead to 44-22. That run included five 3-pointers from a team that ranked 168th nationally in 3-point percentage.
"Great for them; they were hitting a lot of shots," Smith said. "Once we were able to get that under control a bit more and be able to find shooters, I think we were able to be in the game a little bit better, but obviously there was just a big hole we weren't able to come back from.
"They were feeding off the energy, the crowd was getting into it, so that was tough for us to come back from that."
Smith, who went to the bench after two early fouls, scored 21 of her points in the middle two quarters as she frantically tried to extend her career and CU's season.
"I wanted to be super aggressive and do whatever I could to try to get us back," she said. "I just wanted to know that if this was going to be my last game that I went out with a bang and with as much energy and fight on my way out."
The Buffs never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way, however, and trailed by as many as 25 in the second half.
Four Hawkeyes scored in double figures, led by 19 points from Alexa Kastanek, who hit five 3-pointers.
Point guard Kennedy Leonard, CU's leading scorer this season, went just 2-for-14 from the floor and scored six points — 11.4 below her average. Second leading scorer Alexis Robinson (11.4 points per game) missed her second game in a row with a knee injury.
While Smith provided the offensive fire power, Ariana Freeman had a good game off the bench with 12 points and six rebounds and Makenzie Ellis finished with nine points and nine rebounds.
"We definitely did more this season than people expected of us," Smith said. "For that we're really proud and really excited for what means for the seasons to come."
Along with Smith, forward Zoe Beard-Fails and center Bri Watts played their final games for CU. ... The Buffs fell to 14-6 all-time in the WNIT, including 3-3 in road games. ... The Buffs are 3-3 all-time against Iowa, going 0-3 on the Hawkeyes' home court. ... CU registered 10 steals, the 23rd time this season they had 10 or more.
Iowa 80, Colorado 62
Caylao-Do 1-2 0-0 2, Ellis 4-11 0-2 9, Leonard 2-14 0-0 6, Correal 1-2 0-0 2, Smith 9-15 4-7 25, Watts 0-0 0-0 0, Freeman 6-14 0-0 12, Thomas 0-1 0-0 0, Burich 0-2 0-0 0, Beard-Fails 3-6 0-0 6. Totals 26-67 4-9 62..
Disterhoft 5-9 4-5 15, Meyer 4-9 2-4 13, Gustafson 4-7 4-4 12, Doyle 4-10 1-2 9, Cera 1-2 0-0 2, Kastanek 7-11 0-0 19, Coley 1-2 2-2 4, Stewart 3-7 0-0 6, Buttenham 0-0 0-0 0, Schneden 0-1 0-0 0, Ollinger 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-59 13-17 80..
Score by quarters:Colorado18111716—62
3-point goals — CU 6-18 (Smith 3-3, Leonard 2-8, Ellis 1-4, Burich 0-2, Thomas 0-1), Iowa 9-25 (Kastanek 5-9, Meyer 3-7, Disterhoft 1-2, Doyle 0-5, Cera 0-1, Ollinger 0-1). Rebounds — CU 41 (Ellis 9), Iowa 33 (Gustafson 8). Assists — CU 8 (Leonard 5), Iowa 15 (Disterhoft 4). Turnovers — CU 18, Iowa 14. Total fouls — CU 22, Iowa 10. Fouled out — Correal. A — 3,735.