With Southern California slicing into Colorado’s lead and Jaylyn Sherrod on the bench fighting a cramp, the end of the third quarter put some pressure on the Buffaloes.
Sherrod and the short-handed Buffs didn’t back down, though.
Sherrod drained a 3-pointer early in the final quarter and sparked a rally that led the CU women’s basketball team to a 71-58 victory against USC on Friday night at CU Events Center.
“I think it was just rallying together,” said Sherrod, who had 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds. “I know at the start of the fourth quarter, I looked at everybody and said, ‘There’s only 10 minutes left and we’ve just got to give it our all for 10 minutes. I understand we’re shorthanded, but it doesn’t matter. We came too far in this game to give it away now.’”
A 17-day layoff, holiday break, the start of the Pac-12 schedule and three players out for illness or COVID-19 protocols couldn’t cool off the Buffs (12-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who were playing for the first time since Dec. 20 and remained one of just two undefeated teams in the country.
“I wasn’t really sure what tonight’s game was going to look like because both teams had not played in a while,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “I am unbelievably proud of my ball club. We were tough, we were resilient, we pushed through. I think every team in the country is facing some level of adversity at this point of the year, but I knew our response would be tough and gritty. Very excited to start Pac-12 with a win against a good USC team and just really proud of who we are.”
USC (7-4, 0-1) lost leading scorer Jordan Sanders to an apparent knee injury early in the second quarter, but still pulled within five at halftime. Then, after the Buffs took a 17-point lead in the third quarter, the Trojans went on a 10-1 run to pull within 56-48 going into the final frame.
Despite missing key rotational players Tayanna Jones and Tameiya Sadler, as well as walk-on Sophie Gerber, the Buffs, with only nine healthy players, rallied.
Mya Hollingshed had 18 points and eight rebounds, Frida Formann busted loose for 15 points and Quay Miller had her first double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) as a Buff to complement Sherrod’s big night.
“We’re going to keep going through adversity throughout the season; all teams are,” Payne said. “But the fact that we have a lot of veterans that they know what this Colorado on our chest – what it represents; they know what that is. They really believe in it. They feel it. To go through adversity, that type of veteran group that really knows what it takes to be successful, I’m not afraid of anything that’s in our path.”
Neither were Payne’s players, who went on an 8-0 run in the first quarter to open a 15-5 lead and never trailed again.
Formann had a season-high 15 points and tied her season-best with three 3-pointers. She also had three key assists.
“It feels great,” she said. “We have a lot of people setting me up. I really just wanted to set my team up for success, too. I need to do whatever I needed to do to help my team. It was nice to make some shots and to be able to also cash in some of those opportunities I get every game.”
Formann was one of several Buffs to step up and keep the Buffs rolling as the Pac-12 schedule gets underway.
The fact that they did it without some key players “makes the win a little bit sweeter,” Sherrod said. “Knowing that we went in and we fought not only for the people that were here but for the people that are not here, because they’re on the team too and they’re 1-0 (tonight) just like we are.”
Formann missed a third-quarter free throw, snapping a streak of 14 consecutive made free throws dating back to the season opener on Nov. 10. … USC blocked 12 CU shots. That’s the most for a Buffs’ opponent since Washington State had 14 on Feb. 25, 2016. … Sherrod (513) and Miller (508) both surpassed the 500-point mark for their careers. … CU is off to a 12-0 start for the fifth time in program history.
What went right: Once again, the Buffs were sharp on defense, forcing 20 turnovers and turning those into 20 points.
What went wrong: Offensively, the Buffs struggled at times, shooting just 34.7 percent from the floor.
Star of the game: Jaylyn Sherrod. The junior point guard had 15 points, eight assists and six rebounds to spark the Buffs.
What’s next: CU is scheduled to host UCLA on Sunday at 11 a.m.
Colorado 71, Southern California 58
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (7-4, 0-1 Pac-12)
Reed 0-2 3-4 3, Sanders 0-2 0-0 0, Caldwell 1-4 2-2 4, Jenkins 7-13 0-0 14, Pili 3-6 2-2 8, Oliver 0-0 0-0 0, Perkins 4-9 0-0 10, Marshall 3-11 3-5 9, Jackson 1-2 0-0 2, Miura 0-2 0-0 0, Akunwafo 4-5 0-0 8. Totals 23-56 10-13 58.
COLORADO (12-0, 1-0 Pac-12)
Sherrod 4-11 5-6 15, Formann 5-12 2-3 15, Finau 1-2 0-2 2, Hollingshed 6-16 6-7 18, Tuitele 2-8 0-0 4, Miller 5-15 3-7 13, Blacksten 1-4 0-0 2, Wetta 1-4 0-1 2. Totals 25-72 16-26 71.
USC 12 17 19 10 – 58
Colorado 21 13 22 15 – 71
3-point goals – USC 2-12 (Perkins 2-4, Jenkins 0-2, Pili 0-2, Marshall 0-2, Sanders 0-1, Miura 0-1), Colorado 5-19 (Formann 3-8, Sherrod 2-4, Blacksten 0-2, Wetta 0-2, Hollingshed 0-1, Tuitele 0-1, Miller 0-1). Rebounds – USC 45 (Marshall 10), Colorado 45 (Miller 10). Assists – USC 10 (Caldwell, Marshall, Miura 2), Colorado 17 (Sherrod 8). Steals – USC 4 (4 players with 1), Colorado 14 (Hollingshed 4). Turnovers – USC 20, Colorado 10. Total fouls – USC 20, Colorado 10. Fouled out – Caldwell. A – 1,592.