What went right: The Buffs connected on 22 of 28 free throws, including a 9-for-11 mark in the fourth quarter.
What went wrong: CU too frequently went into cruise control, squandering eight-point leads in each of the first two quarters as well as a 10-point lead in the third.
Star of the game: Zoe Correal. The senior just missed her fourth career double-double in her final home game, finishing with nine points and a season-high 14 rebounds.
What's next: The Buffs complete the regular season with a two-game swing through Los Angeles that begins Thursday at UCLA (9 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Network).
Zoe Correal made sure to make her final appearance at the Coors Events Center a memorable one.
After getting recognized during a pregame ceremony alongside fellow Colorado women's basketball senior Brecca Thomas, Correal enjoyed her best home performance this year, grabbing a season-best 14 rebounds in the Buffaloes' 72-69 win Sunday against Washington State in their home finale.
Correal also converted the go-ahead basket off an assist from Alexis Robinson with 51 seconds remaining that helped foil the final comeback bid among many put together by the Cougars.
The victory also gave the Buffs their first back-to-back wins in Pac-12 Conference play in almost three years.
"I really just wanted to do what I could do," Correal said. "It's always nice having a good game, but after I figured out how they were playing me and how I could get on the boards, I really just kind of went from there. It feels great. It's a great ending to being at Coors."
The Buffs didn't make it easy on themselves, even after Washington State leading scorer Borislava Hristova did not return after suffering an injury in the first minute of the second quarter. CU owned eight-point leads in each of the first two quarters and built a 10-point lead in the third quarter, only to watch the Cougars erase the deficit each time.
A 3-pointer from Kennedy Leonard followed by three free throws from Alexis Robinson gave the Buffs a 64-57 lead with 4 minutes, 15 seconds remaining, but Washington State pulled even on a 3-point play by Louise Brown followed by a 3-pointer from Chanelle Molina with 1:19 to play.
The Robinson-to-Correal layup gave the Buffs the lead for good, but CU still had to survive a frantic finish. Two free throws from Leonard gave CU a three-point edge with 15.8 seconds remaining, and WSU missed two field goal attempts before the Cougars' Pinelopi Pavlopoulou connected on a desperation 3-pointer that clearly was launched after the final buzzer sounded.
"A month ago I don't know that we would've withstood those kinds of runs within that environment," CU head coach JR Payne said. "Being up, having a team claw their way back and tie the game, and then for us to be able to go out and execute a couple new things we drew up...we executed, we got stops on the defensive end when it really mattered. I think it shows a tremendous amount of emotional growth this ball club has gone through. That is what I'm most proud of."
Correal's 14 rebounds were the most she has recorded since posting a career-best 15 last season at Cal. She also added nine points to narrowly miss the fourth double-double of her career. It wasn't the best shooting performance by Robinson and Kennedy, who went a combined 3-for-11 on 3-pointers, but they finished 11-for-13 at the free throw line to share the team lead with 15 points apiece.
Correal recorded nine offensive rebounds, leading the Buffs' 21-8 advantage on second-chance points.
"They were just sending a lot of people at me and closing the gaps, forcing me to shoot it," Leonard said. "But at the end of the day it didn't really matter because my teammates were hitting shots...and Correal was getting every single rebound."
The Buffs played without freshman Aubrey Knight, who suffered an apparent right shoulder injury during Friday's win against Washington. Her prognosis was encouraging, with Payne saying afterward, "We expect her to play next weekend, certainly."...Freshman Annika Jank started in place of Knight and finished with 12 points. It was her 11th double-digit scoring effort of the season but her first since Dec. 31 against Arizona...Unless WSU upsets both Cal and Stanford in its final two games, the Buffs will be no worse than the No. 9 seed for the Pac-12 tournament.
Colorado 72, Washington State 69
At Coors Events Center
WASHINGTON STATE (10-18, 3-13)
Washington 1-4 0-1 2, Hristova 1-2 0-0 2, Kostourkova 2-6 0-0 4, Molina 4-8 1-1 10, Swedlund 5-9 2-3 14, Hailey 1-1 3-4 5, Brown 4-7 4-5 13, Muzet 1-1 0-0 2, McClure 2-6, 1-2 5, Pavlopoulou 4-8 0-0 12. Totals 25-52 11-16 69.
COLORADO (14-13, 5-11)
Jank 3-8 4-5 12, Correal 4-8 1-2 9, Caylao-Do 3-8 4-6 11, Robinson 4-12 6-7 15, Leonard 4-9 5-6 15, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 1-4 0-0 2, Hollingshed 2-5 2-2 6, Diop 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-55 22-28 72.
Score by quarters:Washington State 17 17 14 21 — 69
Colorado 17 18 17 20 — 72
3-point field goals — Washington State 8-17 (Molina 1-3, Swedlund 2-3, Brown 1-3, Pavlopoulou 4-8); Colorado 6-21 (Jank 2-3, Caylao-Do 1-2, Robinson 1-6, Leonard 2-5, Thomas 0-2, Hollingshed 0-3). Rebounds — Washington State 28 (McClure 8); Colorado 37 (Correal 14). Assists — Washington State 13 (Molina 3, Hailey 3); Colorado 8 (Correal 2, Robinson 2, Leonard 2) Total fouls — Washington State 21, Colorado 16. Fouled out — Brown.