Down 25 points in the third quarter, and facing a 17-point deficit with seven minutes to play, the Colorado women’s basketball team was well on its way to an expected loss to No. 8 UCLA on Sunday.
The young Buffaloes then did the unexpected.
Led by its zone defense, its youth and resilience, the Buffs rallied and had a shot to win the game in the final seconds before falling, 65-62, at CU Events Center.
Jaylyn Sherrod’s 3-pointer just before the final buzzer was off the mark and UCLA snagged the rebound, ran out the clock and survived to keep its perfect record intact.
“I thought we played a great, probably two-and-a-half quarters and the one-and-a-half quarters that we didn’t play well, I think really cost us the ballgame,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “But I’m proud of our resiliency, proud of our ability to come back.”
The comeback was nearly epic for the Buffs (13-3, 2-3 Pac-12), who trailed 62-45 with seven minutes to go.
During a span of 5:25, CU went on a stunning 17-2 run. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Emma Clarke and Peanut Tuitele, followed by a Tuitele layup cut UCLA’s lead to 64-62 with a minute to go and brought the 2,808 fans in attendance to their feet.
“The crowd, they give us a lot of confidence,” said Tuitele, who scored seven of her 11 points in that fourth quarter run. “My teammates give me a lot of confidence, but when the crowd is behind me and the Buff nation is behind our team, it just boosts everyone’s confidence and you can feel it on the court; like we are connected, we’re cohesive.”
UCLA (16-0, 5-0) seemed rattled in the closing minutes, unable to hit shots and get good shots against the CU zone defense.
“I think it’s just our aggressiveness and our intensity of wanting to defend,” said Mya Hollingshead, who led CU with 17 points and seven rebounds. “I think that’s really set us apart, whether with zone or man; it didn’t matter what we were in. We just wanted to get a stop, we wanted to get the ball out of their hands and we wanted to be on offense. I think the fight of wanting to be on offense really helped us.”
Offensively, the Buffs were abysmal for a large stretch of Sunday’s game.
CU led by nine in the first quarter and took a 22-15 lead 1:27 into the second on a Tuitele jumper.
Over the course of the next 14 minutes, however, UCLA outscored the Buffs 39-7, including a 19-0 run to start the third quarter. CU had six turnovers on its first nine possessions of the third and fell behind 54-29.
“We dribbled off our foot several times and we were having a hard time catching the ball and giving up transition baskets,” Payne said. “It just snowballed so quickly. We’re a very resilient group. We can battle through some adversity, but in this conference, you cannot afford to play that way for a stretch like that. Maybe for a minute, minute-and-a-half. We’ve got to figure out what to do to stop the bleeding when it’s starting to go that way.”
Eventually, the Buffs did and it nearly led to a remarkable finish.
CU had the ball with 10.3 seconds to play and had hoped to get a quick 3-pointer from Clarke, who had 11 points and hit three 3s, but Clarke couldn’t get open.
Instead, the Buffs had to settle for another close call against a good team.
“We’re not really ones for moral victories, but we definitely are a program that loves to talk about the positives and there are so many positives,” Payne said. “We just are going to continue to get better and continue to say, ‘Okay, this is something we need to fix; let’s fix it.’ I think that will help. As long as we have that growth mindset, we’re going to continue to get better every single week.”
Sophomore point guard Sila Finau left the game in the fourth quarter after rolling her ankle. “We sure can’t afford to lose her,” Payne said. “Hopefully she’ll be back soon.” … The Buffs played their second consecutive game without starting center Charlotte Whittaker (leg). … CU has lost 28 in a row against Associated Press Top 25 teams and 15 in a row to top-10 teams. … UCLA has a nine-game winning streak against the Buffs.
What went right: The Buffs’ defense stepped up late in the game and that spilled over to offense, allowing the Buffs to cut a 17-point deficit down to two.
What went wrong: From about two minutes into the second quarter to nearly two minutes left in the third, the Buffs went cold offensively and let turnovers pile up. That led to a 39-7 surge by the Bruins during that stretch.
Star of the game: Mya Hollingshed. The junior had a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds.
What’s next: CU hosts Utah on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at CU Events Center.
UCLA 65, Colorado 62
UCLA (16-0, 5-0 Pac-12)
Corsaro 3-9 0-0 7, Osborne 4-10 2-2 13, Onyenwere 8-16 0-0 19, Dean 4-14 5-6 13, Miller 1-3 0-1 2, Horvat 2-6 1-2 5, Jefferson 1-1 0-0 3, Owens 1-2 0-0 3, Chou 0-3 0-0 0, Brown 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-64 8-11 65.
COLORADO (13-3, 2-3 Pac-12)
Caylao-Do 1-7 6-6 9, Sherrod 2-9 3-3 7, Clarke 4-10 0-0 11, Hollingshed 7-13 0-1 17, Tuitele 4-6 2-2 11, Finau 0-3 0-0 0, Knight 0-1 1-2 1, Jank 2-2 0-0 5, Volcy 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 20-51 13-16 62.
UCLA 10 25 19 11 – 65
Colorado 17 12 11 22 – 62
3-point goals – UCLA 9-21 (Osborne 3-6, Onyenwere 3-5, Corsaro 1-4, Owens 1-2, Jefferson 1-1, Chou 0-2, Horvat 0-1), Colorado 9-22 (Clarke 3-8, Hollingshed 3-5, Caylao-Do 1-3, Tuitele 1-1, Jank 1-1, Sherrod 0-3, Knight 0-1). Rebounds – UCLA 39 (Onyenwere 8), Colorado 33 (Hollingshed 7). Assists – UCLA 16 (Dean 6), Colorado 16 (Sherrod 6). Steals – UCLA 8 (Onyenwere, Corsaro 2), Colorado 7 (Clarke 4). Turnovers – UCLA 10, Colorado 16. Total fouls – UCLA 18, Colorado 15. Fouled out – Miller. Attendance – 2,808.