The first two quarters of an exhibition game, particularly for a team welcoming a large cast of new faces, probably is far too soon to incite panic about the upcoming season.
Yet for the Colorado women's basketball team, two quarters of lethargic play apparently was enough for the Buffaloes to finally get their act together.
Hosting Division II Colorado Christian in an exhibition match Saturday afternoon at the Coors Events Center, CU put together a dominant third quarter to pull away for a 90-55 victory. The 35-point final margin was perhaps in line with expectations for a Pac-12 Conference team hosting a middle-of-the-pack program from the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, but it was a completely different story during the first half as the Cougars took a one-point lead into halftime.
"Truthfully, I'm not shocked," CU coach JR Payne said. "You have that many young players that have never played here, never played in front of anyone. You wish everyone would come out like a seasoned veteran but that's just not the reality. I was proud of the way that we came out in the second half. And I thought all five of our returners did a great job of talking and communicating and kind of helping pull everybody together."
CU never led during the first half and trailed by as many as nine points while struggling at both ends of the floor. The Buffs went just 12-for-38 from the field before halftime while getting outrebounded 23-19 by a much smaller Colorado Christian team.
The second half was a complete reversal, as the Buffs scored 26 of the first 27 point of the third quarter and never looked back, sparking the run with a spirited full-court press. CU put up some encouraging final numbers, including a .442 shooting percentage in the second half and a final tally of 23 assists against just nine turnovers. The Buffs also outrebounded the Cougars 33-21 over the final two quarters.
However, the Buffs finished just 3-for-23 from 3-point range and also struggled at the free throw line (17-for-28).
"I think in the locker room we talked about being aggressive and getting stops and getting out and in transition and doing our jobs," junior point guard Kennedy Leonard said. "Just the level of energy was raised. In the first half it was more kind of just dull. We came out in the second half and we had our bench with us on offense."
Payne used a starting lineup of Leonard, Quinessa Caylao-Do, Zoe Correal, Annika Jank, and Alexis Robinson, who showed no ill effects from the torn ACL she suffered last spring. CU's coach said the lineup and rotation still might be tweaked ahead of the season opener Friday at Samford.
Five players posted double-figure points for the Buffs, and effort led by 19 points off the bench from junior newcomer Janea Bunn. Bunn went 9-for-12 from the field, including a perfect 6-for-6 mark after halftime. Aubrey Knight added 14 points, and she shared the team lead in rebounds with Jank with eight.
"I don't really put much stock into starting. I put a lot more stock into finishing a game," Payne said. "A lot of times I love to have some really productive kids off the bench. Other places might start a lineup differently than I would. It's just sort of the way we've always been. We love to have some of our best scorers and best rebounders and energy kids off the bench."
Colorado 90, Colorado Christian 55
At Coors Events Center
Holt 1-7 2-2 5, Baer 2-7 2-2 6, Olson 2-5 0-0 5, Hurlbut 2-4 2-2 7, Shaner 3-8 1-2 9, Cox 1-2 0-0 2, Sinnott 0-1 0-0 0, Elson 0-1 0-0 0, Brewer 0-0 0-0 0, Vieweg 0-0 0-0 0, McGinley 4-9 2-2 14, Christy 3-8 0-0 7, Tomlinson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-52 9-10 55.
Caylao-Do 4-11 1-4 10, Robinson 2-9 0-0 4, Leonard 2-11 5-6 10, Correal 2-5 0-0 4, Jank 4-9 4-5 12, Bunn 9-12 1-6 19, Carter 1-8 1-2 4, Thomas 4-4 1-1 9, Hollingshed 1-3 0-0 2, Diop 1-3 0-0 2, Knight 5-10 4-4 14, Castro 0-3 0-0 0, Curtis 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 35-90 17-28 90.
Score by quarters:Colorado Christian 20 15 9 11 — 55
Colorado 16 18 37 19 — 90
3-point field goals — Colorado Christian (10-for-27): McGinley 4-7, Shaner 2-2, Holt 1-4, Baer 0-3, Olson 1-3, Hurlbut 1-3, Sinnott 0-1, Christy 1-4; Colorado (3-for-23): Caylao-Do 1-5, Robinson 0-2, Leonard 1-6, Carter 1-4, Hollingshed 0-2, Diop 0-1, Knight 0-1, Castro 0-2. Total fouls — Colorado Christian 21, Colorado 13.