What went right: The Buffs played with great energy all night, and put the foot on the gas in the second half to pull away.
What went wrong: CU was not strong in the paint, getting out scored 26-16. The Buffs had the rebounding edge, but barely, at 37-36. UNA had 16 offensive boards.
Star of the game: Brecca Thomas. The sophomore guard had a career-best 12 points along with five assists. She gave the Buffs great effort all night.
What’s next?: The Buffs host Missouri on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
After three consecutive losses, the Colorado women’s basketball team was in dire need of a victory.
More than anything, though, the Buffaloes needed to play well.
On Wednesday night, they did both, routing Northern Arizona 90-66 at Coors Events Center to snap their losing skid.
“It feels really good to play better,” head coach Linda Lappe said. “I didn’t feel like we’ve been playing very well, so you’ve got to really give it up to our players for coming out and playing with a lot of energy, a lot of hustle, a lot of enthusiasm for each other, a lot of enthusiasm for the game.”
After a sloppy start for both teams, the Buffs (4-4) found their rhythm and coasted to the finish.
Haley Smith had a season-high 18 points to lead five Buffs in double figures. As a team, the Buffs made 54.2 percent of their shots (32 of 59, scored 23 points off UNA (3-5) turnovers and never trailed.
“We just wanted a step in the right direction, working on our connectedness as a team, working together on offense, playing better defense,” Smith said. “This game was really great for that.”
To get a spark, Lappe employed a new lineup against the Lumberjacks.
The Buffs’ top two scorers — Jamee Swan and freshman point guard Kennedy Leonard — both came off the bench, while the guard trio of Brecca Thomas, Makenzie Ellis and Alexis Robinson all started.
“I felt like the players we started, they’ve been doing a great job in practice,” Lappe said. “I felt like we hadn’t had a lot of great starts in the past.”
Despite a rough beginning on offense, the Buffs’ starting lineup was strong defensively from the opening tip. The Lumberjacks missed their first nine shots.
“I think we did a great job slowing the ball in transition and not letting them get the shots they wanted,” Thomas said. “I thought that was a good start for us. Eventually, once we got the defense down, our offense started flowing and everything started flowing.”
CU built a 15-point lead in the second quarter, but UNA hung around because of center Alyssa Rader. The freshman from Horizon High School in Thornton finished with a game-high 27 points and also pulled down 10 rebounds.
“I wish we would have recruited that kid,” Lappe said. “She was fantastic tonight. She had a little bit of a chip on her shoulder. She had an attitude, in a good way. If I wasn’t playing against her, I would have enjoyed watching her play. She was pretty amazing tonight.”
Rader hit a bucket with 4:46 to go in the third quarter that pulled the Lumberjacks within five, 46-41.
Lappe called a timeout at that point, though, and the Buffs came out of it as a different team, outscoring the Lumberjacks 44-25 the rest of the way.
“We just talked about bearing down and playing harder,” Lappe said.
That was the message going into the night, and the Buffs took it to heart.
“We started the game off in warm-ups with high intensity and good energy, and I thought that took us a long way in this game,” said Thomas, who had a career-high 12 points.
In addition to Smith and Thomas, Swan had 14 points, Lauren Huggins 12 and Leonard 10. … Leonard was the only Buff to start every game before Wednesday. … The Buffs had a season-high 13 steals, with Ellis and Zoe Beard-Fails getting three each. .. In addition to her 12 points, Thomas had five assists and just one turnover.
Colorado 90, Northern Arizona 66
At Coors Events Center
NORTHERN ARIZONA (3-5)
Paplow 1-3 2-2 4, Cotton 1-4 0-0 2, Rader 9-21 8-12 27, Coggins 2-6 0-0 4, Lusain 3-12 2-4 8, Mulder 1-4 1-1 3, Amukamara 0-0 0-0 0, Willadsen 0-2 0-0 0, Preston 0-1 0-0 0, Young 6-10 4-4 18, Leyva 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-65 17-23 66.
Ellis 2-3 0-0 5, Smith 6-10 5-6 18, Correal 2-4 3-4 7, Robinson 1-5 2-2 5, Thomas 4-5 2-2 12, Watts 0-1 0-0 0, Leonard 4-6 2-2 10, Huggins 5-8 0-0 12, Beard-Fails 3-6 1-2 7, Swan 5-11 4-6 14. Totals 32-59 19-24 90..
Halftime — Colorado 38-26. 3-point goals — UNA 3-11 (Young 2-2, Rader 1-3, Coggins 0-4, Lusain 0-1, Preston 0-1); CU 7-12 (Thomas 2-2, Huggins 2-4, Ellis 1-1, Smith 1-2, Robinson 1-2, Leonard 0-1). Rebounds — UNA 36 (Rader 10), CU 37 (Smith 7). Assists — UNA 10 (Lusain 3), CU 20 (Thomas 5). Total fouls — UNA 22, CU 19. Fouled out — None. A — 1,532.