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CEDAR CITY, Utah – Knowing the makeup of the Southern Utah women’s basketball program, Colorado head coach JR Payne didn’t expect the Thunderbirds to be intimidated by a Pac-12 team coming into their arena.

“(Southern Utah) is a really tough, disciplined, selfless group,” Payne said. “We knew it would be important to be the aggressor early. We, I think, did that.”

Early, middle and late the 25th-ranked Buffaloes were the aggressor and rolled out of America First Event Center with a dominating 81-47 victory.

Quay Miller had 18 points, Frida Formann had 11 and the Buffs (9-0) racked up a remarkable 20 steals in cruising to the victory. It was the first 20-steal game for CU since Nov. 24, 2002, against Detroit-Mercy.

“Defense is our identity, so we really wanted to lock in on their players,” said Formann, who had two steals and four assists. “We did really well with the scout. I mean, 20 steals is really great, but it doesn’t surprise me because we’re really capable of that. I’m just really proud of my team to be able to really lock them down the whole game.”

CU set the tone early by forcing turnovers on each of the first two SUU (4-5) possessions. Six quick SUU turnovers led to a 15-5 Buffs lead just 6 minutes, 11 seconds into the game. CU never trailed and led by as many as 37 in the fourth quarter.

“I do think that we executed a game plan definitely on both sides of the floor, which is great,” Payne said. “I think we played well and to be able to do it in this environment where Southern Utah doesn’t lose here very often … is great. It’s another good step in the progression of where we’re trying to go.”

Mya Hollingshed and Peanut Tuitele led the defense with four steals each, but nine different Buffs had at least one. CU also limited the Thunderbirds to 37% shooting (17-of-46) and forced 26 total turnovers — the most by a CU opponent since Jacksonville had 28 on Nov. 24, 2019.

“We have a good team defense,” Formann said. “We don’t just have one player who can lock down. We have a good team defense, good rotations, good ball screen coverage and that creates steals for everybody.”

CU converted the turnovers into 27 points, contributing to a good night offensively. The Buffs hit a season-best 56.1% of their shots (32-of-57), including 8-of-16 from 3-point range. They also had 17 assists and only 11 turnovers.

“It might be one of the better games we’ve played this year because it was more of a complete game,” Payne said. “We never want to get beat on the glass, which is something that kind of stands out in the stat sheet, but I thought we moved the ball, we shared the ball. … Certainly defensively we were just as disruptive as we wanted to be.”

Putting together a game like this on the road made the Buffs particularly pleased.

“We want to be able to perform just as well on the road as at home,” Formann said. “We haven’t had a lot of away games, so it was really nice to just prove to ourselves that we can play really well on the road, too.”

Notes

CU’s field goal percentage (.561) was its best since hitting .621 against Air Force on Nov. 28, 2020. … CU has forced six of nine opponents into at least 20 turnovers. … Tuitele’s four steals, all in the first half, were a career-high. … Miller has 38 points and 12 rebounds in her last two games. … Freshman Kindyll Wetta had four assists and played her third consecutive turnover-free game. She has eight assists and zero turnovers in the past three games and improved her season numbers to 26 assists and 10 turnovers. … CU is 5-0 all-time against SUU. Payne was head coach for the Thunderbirds from 2009-14.

Fast break

What went right: CU was great on defense from the start, creating 20 steals and 26 turnovers. The Buffs also had a season-best field goal percentage (.561).

What went wrong: The Buffs were out-rebounded, 32-26. It was just the second time this year they’ve lost that category.

Star of the game: Quay Miller. She continues to play well for the Buffs, with 18 points and six rebounds.

What’s next: The Buffs will host SMU on Dec. 17 at 6 p.m.

No. 25 Colorado 81, Southern Utah 47

COLORADO (9-0)

Sherrod 4-7 1-2 9, Hollingshed 3-9 2-2 9, Formann 4-6 1-1 11, Tuitele 2-7 1-2 6, Finau 3-3 0-0 7, Jones 3-5 1-2 7, Miller 8-11 1-1 18, Blacksten 1-1 0-0 2, Wetta 2-2 2-4 7, Sadler 2-6 0-0 5, Gerber 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 32-57 9-14 81.

SOUTHERN UTAH (4-5)

Williamson 3-7 0-0 6, Ballena 1-4 1-2 4, Daugherty 3-9 0-0 6, Dotson 6-12 4-5 16, Eaton 0-1 0-0 0, Lord 2-3 0-0 5, Clark 0-0 0-0 0, Otkhmezuri 0-3 0-0 0, Johnston 1-3 3-3 6, Anis 1-4 0-0 3, Tronnier 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 17-46 9-12 47.

Colorado                     22        20        19        20        –           81

Southern Utah             13        8          13        13        –           47

3-point field goals – Colorado 8-16 (Forman 2-3, Sadler 1-4, Hollingshed 1-3, Tuitele 1-2, Finau 1-1, Miller 1-1, Wetta 1-1, Sherrod 0-1), SUU 4-14 (Johnston 1-3, Anis 1-2, Lord 1-2, Ballena 1-1, Daugherty 0-4, Dotson 0-1, Otkhmezuri 0-1). Rebounds – Colorado 26 (Miller 6), SUU 32 (Williamson 8). Assists – Colorado 17 (Formann, Wetta 4), SUU 10 (Daugherty 3). Steals – Colorado 20 (Hollingshed, Tuitele 4), SUU 6 (Williamson, Daugherty 2). Turnovers – Colorado 11, SUU 26. Total fouls – Colorado 16, SUU 9. Fouled out – None. A – 537.