Cierra Miller nailed a smooth layup with 2:20 left to play at Clune Arena as Air Force’s women’s basketball team continued to make its late-game charge against Colorado at home on Sunday afternoon.
That shot by the Falcons nearly erased what was once an 11-point lead for the Buffaloes at the midway point of the third quarter. The Falcons now trailed by just one point, but Jaylyn Sherrod would have none of that. The Buffs rushed to the other end of the court before the junior guard dropped a 3-pointer, their fourth of the game.
Key free throws down the stretch took the road victory home for the Buffaloes as they squeaked out a 58-53 final over the Falcons.
“We expected the game to look kind of how it did as far as the pressure,” head coach JR Payne said. “It was very scrappy, a lot of aggressiveness on the basketball. We just didn’t handle that as well as we needed to. It was exactly what I thought because they’re tough, they’re gritty. They press all over the floor. That’s exactly what they did for 40 minutes.”
The contest proved to be a test in patience for both teams as neither handled the ball well. CU turned the ball over 24 times as Air Force nearly matched that disadvantage with 23 turnovers. The Buffs also shot ice-cold from the line as they sank just six of their 15 free throw attempts.
They did, however, excel in the paint as they shot 51.1 percent from the floor and grabbed 34 rebounds. Junior center Quay Miller led that charge with 17 points and seven boards, an effort that Sherrod followed up with 12 points, six rebounds and three assists. The Falcons, by comparison, shot just 34.5 percent from the floor.
“We always want to be tough and gritty throughout a 40-minute game and today provided us an opportunity to do that when we needed to,” Payne said. “Collectively, we were able to execute certain things defensively, offensively when we needed to. A game like this should really make us better in the long run because there’s so much to learn from it.”
The Buffs relied on Sherrod and Miller to lead them offensively through a sloppy first half that saw 23 total turnovers. They scored eight points apiece as Finau and Wetta took care of the glass with five and four rebounds, respectively. They struggled to defend the perimeter against a hot Dasha MacMillan and Riley Snyder, who netted two 3-pointers apiece throughout the first 20 minutes of play.
Both teams continued to muddle through rough ball-handling in the second half. Quay Miller gave the Buffs life when they needed it most — scoring nine in the second half alone — as Winters stepped it up for the Falcons. The Buffs dialed up the pressure on defense to keep the Falcons at arm’s length when the score drew a bit too close for comfort at the end.
Miller believes the work they put in in the weight room during the offseason paid off in the paint, where their size advantage didn’t always work out the way they expected it to. Their resilience, she said, should carry them forward as they work to smooth out the wrinkles that this matchup provided during just their second game of the season.
“I definitely think the coaches will turn it up a lot,” Miller said. “We handled the ball but not well enough and I think that we need it. We can get better in every area so with that being said, we’re just going to take practice one day at a time and get better each day.”
The Buffs improved to 2-0 with the win and will return to action on Friday night when they welcome Marquette to the Coors Event Center for a 7 p.m. tipoff. The 2-0 Golden Eagles will prove to be an even tougher test for the Buffs as they’ve put up 90-plus points in each of their first two contests.
If nothing else, Air Force prepared them for what may lie throughout the rest of the season.
“This was a good game to get out of the way by just testing our strength and our ability to play against a tough team, a scrappy team, a team that we had an advantage over, obviously, with our size,” Miller said.
Colorado 58 Air Force 53
Sherrod 5-9 1-1 12, Formann 2-4 1-2 7, Finau 2-6 0-3 6, Hollingshed 2-7 1-3 5, Tuitele 1-1 0-0 2, Jones 1-3 0-0 2, Sadler 0-3 0-1 1, Miller 8-9, 1-2 17, Blacksten 0-0 0-0 0, Weta 3-5 0-1 7
AIR FORCE (1-1)
Jones 2-7 0-1 4, Autrey-Thompson 2-7 0-0 7, Winters 6-8 1-2 16, Snyder 4-11 3-7 11, MacMillan 4-14 3-8 11, Gadison 1-4 1-4 3, Smith 0-2 0-1 1, L. McDonald 0-1 0-0 0, N. McDonald 0-1 0-1 0, Huntimer 0-0 0-0 0
Colorado 17 13 16 12
Air Force 13 11 12 17
3-point goals — Colorado 4-13 (Sherrod 1-1, Formann 1-2, Finau 0-3, Hollingshed 1-3, Sadler 0-1, Miller 1-2, Weta 0-1), Air Force 8-24 (Jones 0-1, Winters 1-2, Snyder 3-7, MacMillan 3-8, Gadison 1-4, Smith 0-1, N. McDonald 0-1). Rebounds — Colorado 34 (Miller, Finau 7), Air Force 31 (Jones 9). Assists — Colorado 9 (Sherrod 3), Air Force 9 (Autrey-Thompson 3). Steals — Colorado 12 (Sherrod, Miller 4), Air Force 17 (Winters 6). Turnovers — Colorado 24, Air Force 23. Total fouls — Colorado 13, Air Force 16. Fouled out — Winters.