What went right CU dominated the boards (39-20) and played an exceptional third quarter on both ends of the floor to get itself back into the game.
What went wrong Turnovers were costly in the first half the fourth quarter, and the Buffs never found an answer for Arizona's Aari McDonald, who had 32 points.
Star of the game: Quinessa Caylao-Do. The junior scored 21 points, including 12 in the second half.
What's next: The Buffs will host Arizona State on Sunday at CU Events Center at 2 p.m.
In the final moments of the game on Friday night, the Colorado women's basketball team got the play it wanted.
The Buffaloes just didn't get the desired result.
Freshman Peanut Tuitele had a layup roll off the front of the rim at the buzzer, as Arizona escaped CU Events Center with a 69-67 win.
"I thought we executed fantastic," CU head coach JR Payne said of the final play, on which Kennedy Leonard inbounded to Tuitele under the hoop with 1.8 seconds to play. "We got what we wanted and P just didn't make it and sometimes it's just like that. What I told P was, 'You're going to have a lot of opportunities to take game-winning shots throughout your career and I'm going to trust you to take that shot and make that shot every time.'
"The reality is we wouldn't have been in a position to have a game-winning basket if not for Peanut. Her rebounding effort was amazing, her tenacity on defense. She helped us be in this ball game."
The final outcome certainly wasn't on the shoulders of Tuitele, who posted 10 points and eight rebounds, as CU had plenty of chances.
Sam Thomas hit a layup with 35 seconds to play to give Arizona a 69-67 lead. The Wildcats (12-1, 2-0 Pac-12) never got the ball back, as CU (10-3, 0-2) had three chances to win or tie the game in the final 20 seconds. The Buffs missed all three shots, however.
"Everyone really just brought tremendous energy tonight and that's what it takes to be successful," Payne said. "Sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce the way you want it to at the end, that's sort of what happened to us."
Junior Quinessa Caylao-Do scored 21 points, senior Alexis Robinson had a season-high 17, all while Leonard (11 points, 11 assists) posted her 10th career double-double for the Buffs.
Their efforts gave CU a shot after it appeared Arizona might run away, as it has done to most teams this year. The Wildcats ranked eighth in the country in scoring margin, at plus-25.1 and led by dynamic guard Aari McDonald, they led by 14 points late in the first half.
McDonald, the Pac-12's leading scorer, finished with 32 points and eight steals.
"She's one of the best point guards in the country," Payne said. "Offensively and defensively she can change the basketball game."
CU cut the deficit to nine before halftime and in the third quarter matched Arizona's tenacity. Led by Robinson and Caylao-Do, the Buffs went on a 19-4 run to turn a 10-point deficit into a 55-50 lead.
"Coming out in the second half, we were a lot more calm and we not as hesitant to drive to the basket," said Caylao-Do, who had the second 20-point game of her career. "We knew we needed to even up the fouls and be able to get to the basket and knock down free throws."
CU was much more aggressive on both ends of the floor in the second half and cut down on turnovers. After 13 in the first half (leading to 14 Arizona points), the Buffs had just one in the third quarter.
The Buffs also got a jolt of confidence from their veterans. Robinson drained three 3-pointers during the third-quarter run.
"It was a lot of confidence from my teammates to keep shooting the ball and they were getting me the ball," she said.
CU's rally resulted in a 65-62 lead with three minutes to play, but the Buffs were outscored 7-2 down the stretch.
After a stellar non-conference record, the Buffs have now dropped their first two conference games, both at home. The second half effort, however, could be a confidence boost, and the Buffs aren't getting caught up in their record just yet.
"There's a lot of games left, so we don't really have time to be frustrated," Robinson said. "We just have to focus on the next game and take one game at a time."
CU's plus-19 rebounding margin (39-20) was a season high. ... CU had seven turnovers in the fourth quarter. ... Caylao-Do was just two points shy of her career high of 23 points. ... CU's 67 points is the second-most scored against Arizona this year. The Wildcats came in ranking fourth nationally in scoring defense, allowing 49.2 per game.
Arizona 69, Colorado 67
At CU Events Center
ARIZONA (12-1, 2-0 Pac-12)
McDonald 12-23 6-8 32, Alonso 4-9 0-0 12, Thomas 4-7 3-3 11. McBryde 2-4 2-2 6, Reese 2-4 2-2 6, Starks 0-1 0-0 0, Graham 1-2 0-2 2, Nixon 0-00-0 0. Totals 25-50 13-17 69.
COLORADO (10-3, 0-2)
Caylao-Do 7-11 5-7 21, Robinson 5-12 4-4 17, Leonard 3-9 4-4 11, Hollingshed 1-3 0-0 3, Tuitele 3-8 4-6 10, Clarke 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Jank 2-7 0-1 5, Volcy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-50 17-22 67.
Score by quarters:Arizona 19 21 14 15 — 69
3-point goals - Arizona 6-20 (Alonso 4-9, McDonald 2-9, Thomas 0-1, Starks 0-1), Colorado 8-23 (Robinson 3-8, Caylao-Do 2-4, Leonard 1-5, Jank 1-4, Hollingshed 1-1, Tuitele 0-1). Rebounds - Arizona 20 (McDonald 5), Colorado 39 (Tuitele 8). Assists - Arizona 11 (McDonald 4), Colorado 13 (Leonard 11). Steals - Arizona 14 (McDonald 8), Colorado 9 (Robinson 3). Turnovers - Arizona 14, Colorado 21. Total fouls - Arizona 19, Colorado 17. Fouled out - None. A - 1,673.