LAS VEGAS – Mya Hollingshed knew the opportunity in front of the Colorado women’s basketball team on Wednesday night.
That’s what made the outcome so painful.
Despite riding momentum into the Pac-12 Tournament, the sixth-seeded Buffaloes were upended by 11th-seeded Washington, 68-54, on Wednesday at Michelob Ultra Arena.
“Disappointing, as it should be,” the Buffs’ star senior said of her emotions after the defeat. “We came out and we wanted to win this game. We knew what we needed to do in order to be invited into the big tournament, the NCAA Tournament, and we knew what our goals were. We didn’t execute that tonight so (the NCAA Tournament) is unlikely to happen.”
CU (10-10) had won four in a row coming in and earned its highest seed for this tournament in eight years. It was just the second time in 16 Pac-12 Tournament games that the Buffs wore the home jerseys as a higher seed, but they have now lost in the first round three years in a row.
At No. 49 in the NET rankings going into Wednesday, the Buffs were sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble and felt a couple of wins in Vegas could be enough to get into the Dance. A loss to the 92nd-ranked Huskies (7-13) might end those hopes.
“The pressure got to us and I definitely think we felt that,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “There’s been a lot of talk about we can make a run and we, as a group, really felt like we could and what that would mean if we did make a run and things like that. Of course, as coaches we tried to just focus on the one game. We haven’t said a single word about our potential next opponent and things like that but I do think … we felt the pressure of what these next few days could mean for ourselves and our program.”
If the Buffs aren’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, they are likely to get an invitation to the Women’s NIT. Regardless, they won’t soon forget the pain of this one.
“Washington came in with really sort of nothing to lose and they played very loose, and I thought we played very tight,” Payne said. “The looser they got, the tighter we got and that kind of snowballed in the wrong direction for us.”
Washington has always been a tough matchup for CU, but the Buffs won both meetings in the regular season.
In this one, CU jumped to a 21-13 lead early in the second quarter, but Washington got in a groove from 3-point range.
The Huskies missed their first four 3-pointers, but finally hit one, by center Darcy Rees, with 6:38 to play in the second quarter. They hit four more before halftime and went into intermission with a 34-28 lead.
CU briefly regained the lead, 36-35, early in the third quarter, but Washington hit three more 3s in a 14-0 game-changing run.
Then, after CU pulled within 57-49 with five minutes to play, Washington hit back-to-back 3s to bury the Buffs.
“They shot the lights out from jump it felt like,” Payne said. “The way that they were shooting the 3 and the way that we were not guarding the 3 particularly well made it very difficult to get back in. … That’s pretty tough to trade twos for 3s when you’re down.”
Overall, Washington was 11-for-20 from 3-point range, including 11-for-16 in the final 27 minutes. The Huskies were 10th in the conference in 3-point percentage during the regular season.
CU also piled up 20 turnovers, including four straight at one point early in the fourth quarter.
“We did things that were, as coach J said, uncharacteristic things that we never do,” said Hollingshed, who had 16 points to tie Frida Formann for the team lead. “I think it wasn’t anything to do with Washington. I think we just got outside of ourselves and we gave them extra opportunities when we couldn’t take care of the ball.”
Those extra opportunities for Washington – the Huskies scored 29 points off CU’s turnovers – led to a missed opportunity for the Buffs, who had their win streak come to a crashing halt.
“I think they came out with nothing to lose and we came out as if we had everything to prove, and that was not the case,” Hollingshed said. “We should have just came out and played the basketball that we’ve usually been playing all year. I don’t understand. We’re still at a loss for words on what was going on out there. We’re still trying to figure that out.”
The No. 11 seed is now 5-5 against the No. 6 in the 10-year history of this event. … This was the fifth consecutive time CU has played Washington and finished with at least 20 turnovers. … In CU’s last 32 games, it has had 20-plus turnovers in just five games: four times against Washington and once against everyone else. … CU is 6-10 all-time in the Pac-12 Tournament.
What went right: CU had a strong start to the game and built an eight-point lead early with sharp offense and solid defense. The Buffs also finished with a 27-21 advantage on the boards.
What went wrong: Way too many mistakes, including 20 turnovers. The Buffs also didn’t defend the 3-point shot very well, as Washington went 11-for-20.
Star of the game: Mya Hollingshed. She finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
What’s next: The Buffs will wait for the NCAA Tournament and WNIT selections on March 15 to see if their season will continue.
Washington 68, Colorado 54
Miller 4-12 1-3 11, Sadler 6-13 4-4 18, Van Dyke 7-10 2-4 18, Griggsby 4-4 0-0 11, Rees 2-4 0-0 5, Lowery 0-0 0-0 0, Rooks 2-3 0-0 5, Finney 0-0 0-0 0, Whitfield 0-0 0-0 0, Lind 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-46 7-11 68.
Jones 3-5 0-0 7, Formann 5-11 2-2 16, Finau 2-4 0-0 4, Hollingshed 7-16 2-2 16, Tuitele 2-7 0-0 4, Kulinska 0-0 0-0 0, Knight 2-4 2-2 7, Jank 0-0 0-0 0, Whittaker 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 6-6 54.
Washington 12 22 19 15 – 68
Colorado 19 9 12 14 – 54
3-point goals – Washington 11-20 (Griggsby 3-3, Miller 2-4, Sadler 2-4, Van Dyke 2-4, Rees 1-3, Rooks 1-2), Colorado 6-14 (Formann 4-8, Jones 1-2, Knight 1-1, Tuitele 0-2, Hollingshed 0-1). Rebounds – Washington 21 (Van Dyke 6), Colorado 27 (Hollingshed 8). Assists – Washington 15 (Sadler 8), Colorado 8 (Finau, Hollingshed 2). Steals – Washington 13 (Miller 5), Colorado 3 (three players with 1). Turnovers – Washington 16, Colorado 20. Total fouls – Washington 15, Colorado 11. Fouled out – None.