What went right: CU outrebounded George Mason 32-18 in the second half, turning a four-rebound deficit at halftime into a 49-39 final advantage.
What went wrong: The Buffs were only 5-for-18 on 3-pointers and had more turnovers (17) than assists (14).
Star of the game: Kennedy Leonard. The junior guard became the 30th CU player to reach 1,000 points in her career, earning tournament MVP honors after finishing with 26 points, eight assists, and three steals.
What's next: The Buffs host North Dakota State Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Kennedy Leonard wasn't overly enthusiastic about celebrating a significant personal milestone.
Yet when her final field goal splashed through the net — on a 3-pointer with the shot clock about to expire, no less — during a critical moment in the fourth quarter, the junior guard from the Colorado women's basketball team couldn't help indulging in a brief post-swish pose.
The shot proved to be just one of several highlights for Leonard at the Coors Events Center on Saturday, as the Buffaloes dominated George Mason in the second half to post a 76-61 victory in the finale of the Rocky Mountain Hoops Classic.
Leonard finished with 26 points and eight assists, along the way becoming the 30th CU player to reach the 1,000-point plateau in her career. Needing only four points to reach that mark entering the game, Leonard finished the day with 1,022 points. After recording 13 points and seven assists in Friday's win against Mississippi Valley State, Leonard was named the tournament MVP.
"I'm competitive, so to be able to come down and hit a shot like that with the shot clock winding down and coach (Toriano Towns) yelling to get to the basket, and me just shooting it and seeing it going in, it's just funny," Leonard said. "I like basketball. I love basketball. To be able to play, and go out there and play with people who I really care about and in front of people who really want to watch us play, it's exciting. It was fun to hit that shot."
The Buffs held a 36-35 lead at halftime but started breaking the game open when Leonard scored the final four points of the third quarter. CU opened the fourth on a 9-2 run, with Leonard accounting for seven of those points, and the Buffs were able to steadily pull away from there.
A big momentum shift occurred after the break when the Buffs started keeping George Mason off the offensive glass. The Patriots used 11 offensive rebounds in the first half to record 10 second-chance points. They posted just four second-chance points after halftime while the Buffs turned a 21-17 rebounding deficit in the first half to a 49-39 overall advantage by the game's end.
"I just tried to make every effort to box out my person," CU freshman forward Annika Jank said. "(Coach JR Payne) said in the locker room, 'No more offensive boards.' I tried to make that my thing and not let my girl get any more offensive rebounds."
Jank joined Leonard on the all-tournament team after posting the second double-double of her six-game collegiate career, finishing with 13 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocked shots. The Buffs shot .453 from the field while holding George Mason to a 1-for-14 mark in the fourth quarter.
"I was worried about the rebounding before the game," Payne said. "George Mason is plus-10 on the rebounding effort every night, and for us to be down a little bit and come back and beat them on the boards was incredible. This is a really great win for us."
Leonard and Jank were joined on the all-tournament team by Jacy Bolton and Natalie Butler from George Mason, along with Sara Rhine of Drake...Drake, coached by former CU assistant Jennie Baranczyk, defeated Mississippi Valley State 96-60 in the third-place game.
Colorado 76, George Mason 61
At Coors Events Center
GEORGE MASON (6-2)
Dodson 0-2 0--0 0, Butler 6-16 5-8 17, Bolton 6-12 2-2 17, Cardano-Hillary 7-23 0-0 15, Kaminski 1-4 0-0 3, Musgrave 0-5 2-2 2, Triggs 0-0 0-0 0, Korpinen 0-1 0-0 0, Byrne 0-2 1-2 1, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Gatling 2-4 0-0 4, McCool 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 23-71 10-14 61.
Bunn 2-7 0-0 4, Jank 5-11 3-4 13, Robinson 3-8 2-3 10, Leonard 8-16 8-10 26, Knight 4-8 0-0 8, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 3-6 0-0 7, Correal 3-6 0-0 6, Diop 1-2 0-0 2, Castro 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-64 13-17 76..George Mason 17 18 20 6 — 61
Colorado 22 14 24 16 — 76
3-point field goals — George Mason 5-24 (Dodson 0-1, Butler 0-1, Bolton 3-6, Cardano-Hillary 1-8, Kaminski 1-4, Musgrave 0-3, Byrne 0-1); Colorado 5-18 (Jank 0-2, Robinson 2-5, Leonard 2-7, Knight 0-1, Thomas 1-2, Diop 0-1). Rebounds — George Mason 39 (Butler 17); Colorado 49 (Jank 13). Assists — George Mason 15 (Dodson 5); Colorado 14 (Leonard 8) Total fouls — George Mason 17, Colorado 15.