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CU women’s basketball knocks off Oklahoma State in opener

Strong defense leads Buffs to win on the road

STILLWATER, Okla. – During pregame warm-ups on Wednesday night, Colorado assistant women’s basketball coach Toriano Towns reminded the players there was a reason head coach JR Payne scheduled a tough season opener.

“She believes in what you’re capable of being and she thinks you’re ready,” Towns said in challenging the Buffaloes.

They were certainly ready.

Led by senior Mya Hollingshed and lock-down defense, the Buffaloes kicked off their season with a 55-45 victory against Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

“This is honestly, in my four years being here the best opener win we’ve had,” senior Peanut Tuitele said. “Teams play other teams who they can blow out (in openers) but we actually wanted to take a challenge and our coach believed in us and we came out and did what we did. It’s also a learning opportunity because it’s the first game so I can imagine how much we’re gonna grow from here.”

Hollingshed had 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks, while Tuitele finished with seven points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.

Led by those two seniors, CU has higher expectations than usual this season and took on an OSU team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March. The Buffs won their 22nd consecutive opener while snapping the Cowgirls’ 15-game win streak in season openers.

This was just the third time in program history – and the first time since the 1984-85 season – that CU has opened against a fellow Power 5 conference opponent.

“Not too many Power 5s squared off against each other on opening day and we were courageous enough to do it on the road,” Payne said. “I believe in our team, I believe in what we’re capable of doing and being and, yes, thrilled with the victory. We played well in spurts and definitely lots to learn from but I am excited about our win.”

Payne and the Buffs were particularly excited about their defense, which was stellar from start to finish.

Taking advantage of two OSU turnovers, the Buffs jumped to a 9-0 lead less than two minutes into the game and never trailed. Throughout the night, the Cowgirls struggled to hit shots (17-of-54, 31.5 percent), in large part because the Buffs were all over the shooters.

“Our goal was to make them work for their touches,” Payne said. “They have a couple of really, really good shooters. We wanted to make those players work for their touches, not give them anything easy.

“I thought we contested shots pretty well. Not too many were really open and that definitely led to us being successful defensively.”

It wasn’t a great night offensively for the Buffs, either, as they made just 36.2 percent of their shots (17-of-47), but they scored at crucial moments.

CU built a 13-point lead early in the third quarter and led by as many as 16 in the fourth. Three times in the second half, the Cowgirls whittled the CU lead down to seven, but the Buffs squashed the momentum each time and rebuilt a double-digit advantage.

“That was Mya,” Tuitele said. “She was saying, ‘We’ve got to get stops. We need this. We need to get this win for our program and for us to have that confidence boost.’ We are a good ballclub but this also proves that we are a good ballclub because we got a huge road win.”

While it was just the first of at least 30 games this season, it was one that the Buffs hope sets the tone for a promising campaign.

“It’s a tremendous confidence boost because this was a challenging game,” Tuitele said. “We actually came here, took the challenge and did what we need to do, executed offensively and defensively and it led to our win.”

Notes

CU leads the all-time series with its former Big Eight/12 conference rival, 27-26 and snapped a six-game losing streak to the Cowgirls. … The Buffs are 43-5 all-time in season openers. … Washington transfer Quay Miller had nine points and six rebounds off the bench in her CU debut.

Fast break

What went right: CU’s defense was exceptional most of the night. The Buffs set the tone on defense early and kept it going throughout the night. The Buffs also did a nice job of capitalizing on OSU turnovers, converting 18 of them into 16 points.

What went wrong: As they did a year ago, the Buffs struggled at the free throw line, going 16-of-24. They also had an off night from the floor, hitting 36.2 percent.

Star of the game: Mya Hollingshed. The fifth-year senior opened the campaign with 15 points and five rebounds, along with three blocked shots.

What’s next: The Buffs visit Air Force on Sunday at 2 p.m.

Colorado 55, Oklahoma State 45

COLORADO (1-0)

Sherrod 2-7 4-6 9, Formann 2-7 1-2 6, Finau 0-1 0-0 0, Hollingshed 3-9 7-10 15, Tuitele 2-3 2-2 7, Jones 3-6 0-0 6, Sadler 0-4 1-2 1, Miller 4-7 1-2 9, Wetta 1-3 0-0 2, Singer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-47 16-24 55.

OKLAHOMA STATE (0-1)

De Lapp 1-1 0-2 2, Boyd 0-7 2-2 2, Collins 2-9 0-0 4, Keys 6-12 0-0 16, Fields 7-11 3-5 17, Notoa 0-2 0-0 0, Dennis 0-0 0-0 0, Mayer 0-2 1-2 1, Winchester 0-0 1-2 1, Rodrigues 0-3 0-0 0, Reeves 1-7 0-0 2. Totals 17-54 7-13 45.

Colorado                     15        17        9          14        –           55

Oklahoma State          6          14        10        15        –           45

3-point goals – Colorado 5-17 (Hollingshed 2-5, Formann 1-4, Sherrod 1-2, Tuitele 1-1, Jones 0-2, Finau 0-1, Sadler 0-1, Wetta 0-1), OSU 4-16 (Keys 4-7, Fields 0-4, Rodrigues 0-2, Notoa 0-1, Mayer 0-1, Reeves 0-1). Rebounds – Colorado 41 (Tuitele 8), OSU 31 (Reeves 7). Assists – Colorado 13 (Sherrod 6), OSU 8 (Keys, Fields 2). Steals – Colorado 8 (Wetta 3), OSU 10 (Collins, Fields, Mayer 3). Turnovers – Colorado 15, OSU 17. Total fouls – Colorado 16, OSU 18. Fouled out – None. A – 1,575.

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