Postseason hopes in peril for CU women’s basketball after close loss to Utah Utes

Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Brecca Thomas, left, dribbles past Utah’s Kiana Moore during their game at the Coors Events Center on Sunday.

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What went right: For the most part, the Buffs shot the ball well, and they out-rebounded a good rebounding team.

What went wrong: Too many turnovers – especially at crucial moments – hurt the Buffs. They also allowed Utah to hit several open shots in the pivotal fourth quarter.

Star of the game: Mya Hollingshed. The freshman had one of her best all-around games, with 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

What’s next: CU visits California on Friday at 8 p.m. MT.

Win or lose, Colorado women’s basketball coach JR Payne tries to find the good in every game her team plays.

There was plenty to like from the Buffaloes on Sunday, but make no mistake: This one hurt.

Utah controlled the fourth quarter to steal a 78-74 victory from the Buffs at Coors Events Center. While Payne doesn’t like to take a big picture view, this is a loss that puts the Buffs’ postseason hopes in jeopardy.

“Certainly a missed opportunity,” Payne said.

At 12-11 (3-9 Pac-12), the Buffs need three more regular-season wins to have a shot at a second straight trip to the Women’s NIT, and it may be tough to find those wins. They had one of them within reach on Sunday, but two late turnovers and a missed layup in the closing seconds that could have tied the game doomed the Buffs.

“The things that ultimately cost us the game are really kind of small, technical things, but that’s where you win and lose ball games anyway is in the details,” Payne said.

That included leaving Utah’s Daneesha Provo open for three 3-pointers in the first 2:06 of the fourth quarter, helping the Utes turn a 60-56 CU lead into a 67-63 Utah advantage.

“That was a huge momentum shift,” said CU junior Alexis Robinson, who led all players with 23 points. “They just hit us in the mouth, and we couldn’t bounce back. We tried and they had us on our heels.”

Neither team ever pulled away — Utah’s six-point advantage with 5:37 to play was the largest lead for either team — but the Utes’ execution in the final two minutes was better, preventing the Buffs from a season sweep. CU had defeated the Utes in Salt Lake City, 69-65, on Thursday.

“We competed tonight,” Payne said. “We beat them on the boards, turned the ball over a little bit too much and gave up a couple too many 3s and other than that we actually played a pretty good ball game.”

Robinson did her part, knocking down four 3s and finishing with the second-best point total of her career.

Freshman Mya Hollingshed was great, too. She had 16 points and career highs in rebounds (nine) and blocked shots (four). Her 3-pointer with 15.5 seconds to play pulled the Buffs within 75-74.

“It kept us in the game,” Payne said of Robinson and Hollingshed, who went a combined 15-for-27 from the floor. “It put us up or got us back in and they were timely shots, and shots that we continuously asked them to take and they stepped up and knocked them down with confidence.”

Senior center Zoe Correal had a nice game, as well, with 10 points and seven rebounds, despite battling foul trouble.

“Coach J always talks about just doing your job and doing what you’re supposed to do and that’s my job is to be big down low and try to get buckets and get rebounds,” Correal said.

Unfortunately for the Buffs, a few great individual performances didn’t add up to a win. Now, they’ve got to try to steal some games, beginning with a trip this weekend to No. 25 California and No. 24 Stanford.

“We have to get back in the gym, get back to practice and gear up for our next games,” Correal said.


The all-time series between CU and Utah is tied at 16-16. … CU fell has 7-5 all-time on Super Bowl Sunday, including three consecutive losses. … Point guard Kennedy Leonard had a tough shooting day (3-for-13) and finished with eight points and five assists. She did, however, tie Chucky Jeffery for fourth on CU’s career list for assists (481) and tied Britt Hartshorn for eigth on CU’s career scoring list (1,272 points). … CU played without Janea Bunn, who missed her fifth game for person seasons. The Buffs were also without guard Sara Castro and center Jaimie Curtis, who were physically unable to play.

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