Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
What went right: The Buffs out-rebounded Wyoming 38-31. They also kept their composure down the stretch when trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter.
What went wrong: CU’s offense struggled all night. The Buffs missed easy shots in the paint and wound up making just 40.9 percent (27-of-66) on the night. Defensively, they gave Wyoming too many easy buckets.
Star of the game: Kennedy Leonard. She scored a game-high 29 points, with 22 of them coming in the fourth quarter to help the Buffs rally. She also had five assists.
What’s next: The Buffs begin Pac-12 play on Dec. 30 with a trip to Southern California.
Kennedy Leonard had a quarter for the ages on Wednesday night.
Unfortunately for her and the 15th-ranked Colorado women’s basketball team, even that wasn’t enough to prevent their first loss of the season.
The Buffaloes were unable to overcome a rough first three quarters in falling to visiting Wyoming, 82-75, at Coors Events Center.
Leonard scored a game-high 29 points, with 22 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Wyoming, however, had enough in the tank to pull the upset of the Buffs (10-1).
“They’re just tough,” Leonard said of the Cowgirls, who beat the Buffs for the second year in a row. “They work really hard and they capitalize on your mistakes.
“I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily the toughest team we’ve faced. I think it was just a night where we needed something like this and it’ll hopefully propel us forward into the Pac-12.”
CU trailed 67-57, with 3 minutes, 49 seconds to go when Leonard put the team on her back. She scored 18 points in the final 3:49, pulling the Buffs within two heading into the final two minutes.
“At any moment when you’re down by two, you feel like you can win that game,” Leonard said. “Sometimes things don’t go your way and everything is a learning (opportunity).”
In the last 56 seconds, Wyoming (8-3) went 10-for-10 at the free throw line and also hit a huge 3-pointer.
“They did the things down the stretch they needed to do to win the ball game and they’re a great team,” CU head coach JR Payne said.
Still, this was not a typical game for the Buffs, who had been exceptional all season.
Offense was a struggle for much of the night, as the Buffs missed several easy layups and open shots. The Buffs also gave up a lot of open buckets to the Cowgirls, who went into halftime leading 32-31 — CU’s first halftime deficit of the season.
“There’s a lot we can learn from this game, in just really sticking to who we are,” Payne said. “I think we got outside of ourselves a little bit in the first half. Second half I thought was more who we are.”
The Buffs had to rely on sophomores Makenzie Ellis and Ariana Freeman offensively for much of the night. That duo combined for 26 of CU’s 46 points through the first three quarters.
Freeman finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Ellis had a career-high 16 points.
“I knew I had to step up since some people were struggling with their shots,” Ellis said. “I just come out like I do every game: work hard and take the open shots and crash (the boards).”
On this night, however, Wyoming was too much.
Liv Roberts had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Cowgirls, while Marta Gomez added 19 points. As a team, they made 50 percent of their shots (27-of-54), including 9-for-19 from 3-point range.
Now, the Buffs will take a few days off for the holiday break before reconvening on Dec. 26to begin preparation for the Pac-12 slate.
“I’m unbelievably proud of this team,” Payne said. “We’ve had a preseason that no one expected us to have. We’ve already overachieved in other people’s eyes, so I’m excited for where we are.”
Leonard had 24 points in the second half, tying the school record for points in one half. Susan Horner also had 24 in a half against Weber State on March 10, 1979. … This was Wyoming’s first win in Boulder since Nov. 21, 2006. The Buffs are now 22-3 against Wyoming at home.
Wyoming 82, No. 15 Colorado 75 Wyoming (8-3)
Roberts 7-14 5-5 21, Gomez 4-7 8-8 19, Tapia 5-10 2-4 13, Baker 4-9 0-0 10, Ligocki 2-8 4-6 8, Campbell 3-4 0-0 6, Rusk 2-2 0-0 5, Cotton 0-0 0-0 0, Tucker 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 27-54 19-23 82.
Leonard 9-19 9-13 29, Ellis 5-11 2-2 16, Freeman 7-10 1-2 15, Robinson 3-9 2-4 9, Correal 2-7 0-0 4, Burich 1-4 0-0 2, Smith 0-5 0-0 0, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Watts 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 27-66 14-21 75.
Wyoming 13 19 19 31 — 82
3-Point Goals — Wyoming 9-19 (Gomez 3-5, Baker 2-6, Roberts 2-4, Rusk 1-1, Tapia 1-2, Campbell 0-1), Colorado 7-14 (Ellis 4-4, Leonard 2-7, Robinson 1-2, Burich 0-1). Assists — Wyoming 23 (Ligocki 6), Colorado 13 (Leonard 5). Fouled Out — Wyoming Tapia, Colorado Burich. Rebounds — Wyoming 31 (Roberts 11), Colorado 38 (Freeman 8). Total Fouls — Wyoming 20, Colorado 22. A — 1,982.