What went right: CU came out with great energy and built an 11-point lead in the first quarter, setting the tone for the rest of the night.
What went wrong: Ultimately, poor shooting (29.4 percent) and a minus-12 rebounding margin proved costly for the Buffs.
Star of the game: Alexis Robinson. The senior scored a career-high 33 points and added five rebounds and three blocks.
What’s next: CU will host Southern California on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Following the program’s worst loss in 35 years and off to a dismal start to Pac-12 play, the Colorado women’s basketball team was in position to fold or fight down the stretch of the season.
On Friday night, the Buffaloes came out fighting.
Senior Alexis Robinson was sensational and the Buffs took UCLA down the wire before falling, 64-60, at the CU Events Center.
“There just were a lot of great things we did tonight,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a victory to show for it, but our competitiveness and fight and our will to continue to compete was pretty special, I thought.”
Just five days earlier, the Buffs (10-12, 0-11 Pac-12) showed very little fight in a 59-point loss at Oregon, but they were a completely different team against the Bruins (14-9, 7-4).
Robinson scored a career-high 33 points and sparked an 18-2 first-quarter run that briefly gave the Buffs an 11-point lead.
“After Oregon, it really showed how we have bounced back and how great practices went,” said junior Quinessa Caylao-Do, who had nine points and a career-high eight rebounds. “Starting off the first quarter and second quarter strong, that was a really good start for us and that’s what kept us in the game.”
CU didn’t maintain its hot start, but the energy generated in the first quarter carried through to the finish — especially for Robinson.
Robinson’s previous career high was 31 points, on Feb. 22, 2018, at UCLA. On Friday, she posted just the 18th game of 33-plus points in CU history and was just five shy of the single-game record.
“They’re a tough team,” Robinson said. “I’m a competitor, so I just went out there and played as hard as I could.”
Robinson drilled 5 of 13 shots from 3-point range and set career highs in free throws made (10) and attempted (12).
“I was trying to be consistent with my scoring as much as I could,” she said.
Outside of Robinson, though, scoring was a struggle for CU. The Buffs made just 29.4 percent of their shots (20 of 68); take out Robinson and that percentage was just 23.9.
“Their zone slowed us down a little bit, and it sort of took the air out of our sails from an aggressiveness standpoint,” Payne said. “It was really more us that slowed ourselves down. There were still a lot of opportunities to be aggressive in transition and the half court and that’s something we can learn from.”
Despite that, the Buffs got within one, 55-54, with 4:52 to play. UCLA scored the next five, however. A Japreece Dean three-point play at the 3:29 mark put the Bruins up by six and CU was unable to fully close the gap.
The Buffs did, however, significantly close the gap from Sunday and battled the way Payne expects her team to battle.
“Oregon is one of the best teams in America, but we were about as bad as we could be (Sunday),” she said. “That was sort of an anomaly. This game we played today is what we’re capable of doing from a competitive standpoint. Our competitive nature in tonight’s game is really the expectation and that, truthfully, was the biggest difference between last weekend and today.”
Michaela Onyenwere, a sophomore from Grandview High School in Aurora, led the Bruins with 22 points and 11 rebounds. … CU guard Kennedy Leonard missed her eighth consecutive game with a foot injury. … Robinson became the 22nd player in CU history with 1,200 career points (1,221).
UCLA 64, Colorado 60
At CU Events Center
UCLA (14-9, 7-4 Pac-12)
Corsaro 3-6 0-2 7, Drummer 1-5 3-4 5, Onyenwere 9-18 3-6 22, Burke 4-7 2-6 10, Dean 6-17 4-5 17, Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Jefferson 0-2 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 0-2 1-2 1. Totals 24-61 13-25 64..
COLORADO (10-12, 0-11)
Caylao-Do 4-17 0-0 9, Robinson 9-22 10-12 33, Finau 2-11 0-0 5, Hollingshed 1-4 1-2 3, Tuitele 0-2 0-0 0, Clarke 0-1 0-0 0, Carter 0-1 0-0 0, Diop 0-0 0-0 0, Jank 3-9 2-4 8, Volcy 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-68 13-18 60..
Score by quarters:
UCLA 11 20 18 15 — 64
3-point goals – UCLA 3-6 (Onyenwere 1-2, Dean 1-2, Corsaro 1-1, Drummer 0-1), Colorado 7-25 (Robinson 5-13, Finau 1-6, Caylao-Do 1-5, Jank 0-1). Rebounds – UCLA 53 (Onyenwere 11), Colorado 41 (Caylao-Do 8). Assists – UCLA 6 (Dean 4), Colorado 12 (Finau 5). Steals – UCLA 5 (Burke 2), Colorado 2 (Robinson 2). Turnovers – UCLA 13, Colorado 7. Total fouls – UCLA 18, Colorado 22. Fouled out – None. A – 2,261.