What went right: Strong defense helped the Buffs build leads of 14 and 15 points at different points in the game. And, in the final few seconds, the Buffs kept their composure to get a win.
What went wrong: Lapses on offense and defense allowed CSU to stay in the game and have a chance. CU's offense locked up in the final 8 minutes.
Star of the game: Annika Jank. The freshman finished with a career-high 22 points and added 10 rebounds and two assists.
What's next: The Buffs return home to host Dartmouth on Monday.
FORT COLLINS — When Colorado State's Grace Colaivalu released a 3-pointer just before the final buzzer on Wednesday night at Moby Arena, Colorado's Kennedy Leonard had a flashback to two years ago.
"I was like, 'Oh God, it's happening again,'" Leonard said in recalling a last-second loss in this arena on Dec. 2, 2015.
This time, it was a different result, as Colaivalu's shot hit off the front of the rim and the Buffaloes survived with a 70-67 victory against the rival Rams.
The young Buffs (7-1) won their sixth in a row, as freshman Annika Jank finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Leonard tallied 18 points and five assists.
"It's huge," said Leonard, who improved to 2-1 against the Rams in her career. "We have eight new players, so for them to experience this kind of atmosphere is big and really key for the (upcoming Pac-12 schedule). On the road in the Pac-12, it's tough. Every night is like this on the road."
CU led most of the way and built a game-high 15-point lead on a Jank 3-pointer with 8 minutes, 42 seconds to play.
From that point on, however, the Buffs went 0-for-9 from the floor with four turnovers. They scored just six points in the final 8:42, all from the free throw line, to give CSU a shot.
The Rams pulled within one, 68-67, when Broomfield High School graduate Callie Kaiser made a 3-pointer — on her only shot of the night — with 8.6 seconds left.
"(In the final eight minutes), we got real hesitant and real passive and everything was just around the perimeter and the ball was not penetrated either with a dribble or a pass or a cut or anything," CU head coach J.R. Payne said. "That led to late shot clocks and deep 3s. It was a lack of aggression, probably. Extremely nerve-racking."
Despite that, Brecca Thomas and Leonard went a combined 4-for-4 at the free throw line in the final 14.7 seconds to help the Buffs hang on.
"We put it together and made free throws at the end, which was really clutch for a young team," Leonard said.
A 22-4 run in the first quarter helped CU jump to a 14-point lead early. CSU then rallied and took the lead in the second before Jank hit a layup to send the Buffs into halftime with a 36-35 lead.
In the third, the Buffs went on an 11-0 run to get some breathing room, as Zoe Correal came off the bench to spark that surge.
"We knew this was going to be a dog fight when we came in here because it's our in-state rivalry," Jank said. "We were expecting runs for each team and I'm glad our team came out, battled and we won in the end."
Not before CSU's 15-2 run in the fourth set up the late-game drama, however.
"I think we have to get better at when we are up, we have to still attack and have that mentality," Leonard said. "Hopefully in our practices in the next couple of days we can get better at that."
Payne, however, wasn't going to complain about a win on the road against a CSU team that has won the Mountain West Conference the past four years.
"They're used to winning, and they don't lose here," Payne said. "While I'm frustrated that we blew a lead and only won by (three), it is a really good win for us against a fantastic team."
CSU had 11 turnovers in the first quarter, tied for the most ever by a CU opponent in one quarter. The Rams had just nine the rest of the game. ... Thomas finished with nine points, starting the game 3-for-3 from the floor. That extended her streak to 10 consecutive shots without a miss. ... Jank's double-double was her third this season
Colorado 70, Colorado State 67
At Moby Arena
Bunn 2-8 0-0 4, Robinson 1-8 0-0 2, Leonard 5-11 8-11 18, Knight 1-4 0-0 2, Jank 9-15 2-5 22, Thomas 3-7 2-2 9, Correal 2-3 6-6 10, Hollingshed 1-5 1-2 3, Diop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 19-26 70..
COLORADO STATE (5-3)
Tryggedsson 1-4 4-5 7, Tvrdy 5-10 0-0 12, Mirkovic 0-3 0-0 0, Colaivalu 5-8 3-6 13, Devos 2-6 3-4 7, Linden 0-0 0-0 0, Austgulen 4-6 0-0 12, Edwards 1-2 0-0 3, Kaiser 1-1 0-0 3, Brady 4-11 0-0 8, Davis 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 24-53 10-15 67..
Score by quarters:Colorado 24 12 25 9 — 70
Colorado State 13 22 13 19 — 67
3-point goals — Colorado 3-16 (Jank 2-3, Thomas 1-3, Leonard 0-6, Robinson 0-2, Knight 0-1, Hollingshed 0-1), CSU 9-17 (Austgulen 4-6, Tvrdy 2-4, Tryggedsson 1-4, Edwards 1-1, Kaiser 1-1, Colaivalu 0-1). Rebounds — Colorado 44 (Jank 10), CSU 32 (Tryggedsson 7). Assists — Colorado 10 (Leonard 5), CSU 15 (Colaivalu 8). Steals — Colorado 10 (Leonard, Robinson 3), CSU 10 (Colaivalu 3). Turnovers — Colorado 18, CSU 20. Total fouls — Colorado 13, CSU 19. Fouled out — Tvrdy. A — 1,461.