What went right: Colorado played a great third quarter and used its defense to generate offense, allowing the Buffs to get back into the game.
What went wrong: Outside of the third quarter, the Buffs struggled offensively and didn’t get enough stops on defense. They hit 60 percent of shots in the third and 29 percent in the other three quarters.
Star of the game: Alexis Robinson. In her final game, she came off the bench to score 19 points.
What’s next: CU heads into the offseason and looks ahead to the 2019-20 season.
LAS VEGAS — With her career officially coming to a close on Thursday, senior Alexis Robinson wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke about her head coach, JR Payne.
“I’ve definitely learned that coach J is one of the most caring …,” Robinson said before getting choked up and then finishing with, “She’s been really big in my life.”
The admiration between Payne, Robinson and senior Kennedy Leonard was on display during the postgame press conference at the MGM Garden Arena, especially as those three competed in their final game together.
Seeded 12th in the Pac-12 Tournament, the Buffaloes gave fifth-seeded and 22nd-ranked Arizona State all it could handle before falling, 66-49. The loss puts an end to a disappointing and injury-riddled season for the Buffs (12-18).
Payne put a cap on her third season as the Buffs’ head coach, while saying goodbye to Leonard and Robinson – the only two players left from when she was hired in the spring of 2016.
“The amount of obstacles and things just the three of us have been through together in our three years is pretty remarkable,” Payne said. “These two have shown what it means to be a Buff, as far as loyalty – not just to the program, but to each other, to their teammates, to the brand of Colorado and their work ethic. These are two of the hardest working players that have ever worn a jersey.”
A once-promising season that started with a 10-1 record in non-conference play turned sour in a hurry once Pac-12 play began in January.
Leonard, who finished as the program’s all-time leader in assists (664) and seventh in scoring (1,635 points), missed 10 games with a foot injury. Then, just as she returned to the lineup, Robinson, who finished 18th in CU history in scoring (1,285) missed three games with a knee injury.
Leonard and Robinson weren’t 100 percent healthy as they played through the final three games — all of which CU played without starting freshman forward Peanut Tuitele, who was out with a concussion.
Considering all of that, it was no surprise when ASU (20-9) went on a 13-2 run in the second quarter to take a 29-11 lead. The Buffs, it appeared, were cooked, as they were struggling mightily on offense.
A Robinson 3 and three points by junior Quinessa Caylao-Do closed the gap to 29-17 by halftime, however.
Then, in the third, Robinson caught fire, scoring 12 of her team-high 19 points in that quarter.
“I was just trying to do whatever it took to win,” Robinson said. “I know I can shoot it, so that’s what I did. I tried to create open shots for myself and create open shots for my teammates.”
CU pulled within one, 41-40, in the closing moments of the third quarter, but ASU went on another 13-2 run that put the game out of reach.
“Today was sort of the epitome of our entire season, being the underdog and undermanned and facing adversity, but just continuing to never back down, never stop fighting, staying together and playing really hard for each other,” Payne said. “I thought we showed tremendous toughness and togetherness today, so I’m very proud of our team today.”
For Leonard and Robinson, it was a tough finish to careers that didn’t bring the team success they had hoped for. The Buffs were 51-73 with one postseason appearance (in 2017) in the past four years, but there will be plenty of good memories, too.
Leonard said she would “run through a wall” for Payne and that she has no regrets about staying in Boulder after a coaching change three years ago.
“It hasn’t been the easiest road, but easy times don’t make the greatest people; tough times do,” Leonard said. “If anything comes out of this, I know we’re all going to be pretty tough people.”
Freshman Kai Volcy got her first career start, as CU used its 10th different starting combination of the season. By comparison, ASU has used the same starting five all season. … Caylao-Do added 12 points and five rebounds.
Arizona State 66, Colorado 49
Caylao-Do 4-12 4-6 12, Clarke 1-4 0-0 2, Leonard 2-6 2-2 6, Hollingshed 3-6 0-2 6, Volcy 0-0 0-0 0, Robinson 6-13 3-4 19, Finau 0-2 0-0 0, Carter 0-0 0-0 0, Diop 0-1 0-0 0, Jank 1-4 1-2 4. Totals 17-48 10-16 49..
ARIZONA STATE (20-9)
Richardson 2-7 0-0 6, Ryan 4-7 3-4 13, Ekmark 6-15 0-0 18, Johnson-Chapman 2-3 1-2 5, Ibis 3-6 0-0 6, Hanson 0-2 0-0 0, Russell 2-4 2-3 7, Elenga 2-3 1-1 5, Mbulito 0-0 2-2 2, Van Hyfte 1-2 2-2 4, Ruden 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 11-14 66.
Score by quarters:
Colorado 7 10 23 9 — 49
Arizona State 13 16 14 23 — 66
3-point goals — Colorado 5-18 (Robinson 4-9, Jank 1-2, Caylao-Do 0-2, Clarke 0-2, Hollingshed 0-2, Leonard 0-1), ASU 11-27 (Ekmark 6-12, Richardson 2-7, Ryan 2-5, Russell 1-2, Ruden 0-1). Rebounds — Colorado 27 (Caylao-Do, Leonard 5), ASU 37 (Johnson-Chapman 9). Assists — Colorado 7 (Leonard 3), ASU 18 (Richardson, Ryan 5). Steals — Colorado 7 (Hollingshed 3), ASU 6 (Van Hyfte 2). Turnovers — Colorado 16, ASU 16. Total fouls — Colorado 15, ASU 13. Fouled out — None.