With 14 conference games still to play, the Colorado women’s basketball team has plenty of work to do in the next couple of months.
There is some satisfaction, however, in what the Buffaloes have done to this point.
On Friday night, the Buffs pulled away from Southern California in the second half and coasted to the finish for a 66-53 victory at CU Events Center.
The Buffs (13-2, 2-2 Pac-12) have already topped last year’s overall win total, while matching the conference win total.
Although projected to finish last in the conference, the Buffs aren’t surprised by their start. They have believed all along that they’re better than they were a year ago, when they finished at the bottom of the Pac-12 with a 2-16 mark (12-18 overall).
“I think it’s a great feeling, but I think this summer it showed that we were going to be a really good team,” said senior Quinessa Caylao-Do, who had 13 points and six rebounds against the Trojans (8-7, 0-4). “So I don’t think we’re really surprised about it. I think just the hard work that we put in has paid off and shown. We want to continue to do better in Pac-12.”
After a tough road trip last week, when they lost to No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Oregon State, the Buffs had a sluggish first half Friday, going into intermission trailing, 25-23.
“The first three minutes was really good,” head coach JR Payne said. “After that, it kind of went downhill. The message at halftime, we basically just said, ‘Listen, we’re better than that. We can play better basketball than that and we need to and we’re going to.”
With Emma Clarke and Caylao-Do rediscovering their offensive firepower, the Buffs did get better, outscoring the Trojans 27-12 in the third to establish a fairly comfortable lead.
Dating back to a Dec. 29 game at Utah, Clarke had missed 13 consecutive 3-pointers – including four in the first half Friday – before hitting back-to-back 3s in the third and 3-for-4 in the second half.
“It felt really good,” said Clarke, who finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. “I haven’t been hitting shots for the last three games. My first half, they weren’t falling, but second half I came out there and just kept shooting and finally dropped, and another one, so I was happy.”
Caylao-Do had scored nine points in the previous three games combined before her 13-point effort against the Trojans.
Jaylyn Sherrod added 10 points – including five in a row to end a mini-run by the Trojans in the fourth – and seven assists. Aubrey Knight chipped in with nine points and seven rebounds, and the Buffs got solid minutes off the bench from Annika Jank, Kai Volcy and just about anyone else who came in.
“Everyone is doing their roles really well and we’re all a lot more confident this year,” Caylao-Do said. “Anyone could have a great night, any night. It could be Aubrey, Emma, Mya (Hollingshed); it doesn’t matter. I think we just have a lot of depth on our team.”
That depth once again helped the Buffs to a victory, as they improved to 7-0 in Boulder this season.
“We just stuck together, stayed together, continued to compete, continued to understand that we needed to be more aggressive in the second half and that the shots would start to fall and we just played a great second half, I think,” Payne said.
CU freshman Charlotte Whittaker missed the game with a leg injury. … The last time the Buffs started 13-2 was the 2012-13 season, which was the last time they reached the NCAA Tournament. … Jank topped the 500-point mark (502) for her career, while Clarke topped the 300-point mark (301).
What went right: The Buffs played solid defense, dominated the rebounds (50-31) and had a balanced attacked on offense.
What went wrong: CU turns the ball over more than any team in the Pac-12 and that was an issue again on Friday, as it racked up 21 turnovers, leading to 20 USC points. The Buffs also struggled with their shooting for large chunks of the game.
Star of the game: Quinessa Caylao-Do. The senior had 13 points and six rebounds, while adding two assists and two blocks.
What’s next: The Buffs host No. 8 UCLA on Sunday at Noon at CU Events Center.
Colorado 66, USC 53
USC (8-7, 0-4 Pac-12)
Overbeck 3-6 4-8 11, Rogers 5-17 0-0 11, Jeune 0-5 2-2 2, Caldwell 2-9 1-2 6, Pili 2-8 2-2 6, Jackson 5-10 2-2 12, White 0-2 0-0 0, Miura 1-5 2-2 5. Totals 18-62 14-18 53.
COLORADO (13-2, 2-2 Pac-12)
Caylao-Do 4-10 2-2 13, Sherrod 4-7 2-2 10, Clarke 4-13 2-2 13, Hollingshed 3-8 0-0 6, Tuitele 3-7 0-0 6, Finau 0-3 4-4 4, Kulinska 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Knight 3-7 0-0 9, Jank 2-5 1-4 5.
USC 15 10 12 16 – 53
Colorado 16 7 27 16 – 66
3-point goals – USC 3-17 (Miura 1-5, Rogers 1-4, Caldwell 1-4, Jeune 0-2, Pili 0-2), Colorado 9-25 (Clarke 3-8, Knight 3-5, Caylao-Do 3-4, Hollingshed 0-3, Finau 0-2, Jank 0-1, Sherrod 0-1, Tuitele 0-1). Rebounds – USC 31 (Overbeck 7), Colorado 50 (Clarke, Tuitele 8). Assists – USC 7 (Pili, White, Miura 2), Colorado 13 (Sherrod 7). Steals – USC 11 (4 players with 2), Colorado 6 (Clarke, Hollingshed 2). Turnovers – USC 9, Colorado 21. Total fouls – USC 13, Colorado 15. Fouled out – None. Attendance – 1,824.