It hasn’t been often this season that the Colorado women’s basketball team has found itself in a fight for a win.
Head coach JR Payne wasn’t surprised with how her team handled a battle on Sunday, though.
Guards Frida Formann and Jaylyn Sherrod were sensational once again, as the Buffaloes hung on to beat UCLA, 71-63, at CU Events Center.
Sherrod had a career-high 25 points, in addition to eight assists, while Formann added 14 points as the Buffs pulled away in the fourth quarter.
“I know how we’ll react,” Payne said to her team getting tested. “I don’t know that we’ll make every layup or get every stop or make every free throw, but I do know that we will always react with resilience and toughness and fight because that’s just culturally really who we are.”
CU (13-0, 2-0 Pac-12) missed plenty of layups and didn’t get every stop, but found a way to win against UCLA (5-4, 0-1), which is typically one of the best teams in the Pac-12. With No. 4 Arizona losing at Southern California on Sunday, the Buffs are the only undefeated team in Division I.
The Buffs snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Bruins and continued what is now the second-best start in program history. Only the 1992-93 team, at 15-0, has had a better start to a season. This is the first time the Buffs have been 2-0 in conference play since the 2006-07 season when they were in the Big 12.
“Our expectations are really big this year,” Formann said. “We know what we can do. We’re very confident. So we’ve all been really excited to start Pac-12 play.”
Conference play brings better competition and Sunday was just the second time this season – and first since a 58-53 win at Air Force on Nov. 14 – that CU won a game by single digits.
On Sunday, CU faced its largest deficit of the season (seven points) and for the first time all year found itself trailing at any point after the first quarter – with brief deficits of two points (second quarter) and one point (third quarter).
UCLA pulled within 56-52 with 2:58 to go, but Formann and Mya Hollingshed each hit 3-pointers to extend the lead to 62-53. The Buffs then went 7-for-10 at the free-throw line in the final minute.
“Every game is fun, but I think just being in Pac-12, it’s a different atmosphere for everybody,” Sherrod said of the intensity late in the game. “We really just depended on each other at the end of the game. We were just resilient. We knew they were gonna have to foul and we knocked down free throws. Peanut (Tuitele) knocked down big free throws. Coach (Payne) called a timeout and Frida came out and hit a big shot. So I think we just felt locked in on a game plan and just did what you’re supposed to do and really didn’t change anything with the closeness of the game. We just stuck to the plan.”
The plan didn’t include an ugly start, but CU fought through that. The Buffs didn’t score their first points until 3:34 to play in the first quarter, starting 0-for-9 from the floor with two turnovers. UCLA wasn’t much better, starting 1-for-6 with three turnovers.
“Even though we’re not scoring, we’re still guarding,” Payne told her team. “So make sure that we continue to guard, continue to work defensively until our shots start falling.”
The shots began to fall and CU got back in rhythm by the second half. Sherrod and Formann led the way, but Hollingshed added 10 points and seven rebounds, Tuitele had seven points and Kindyll Wetta had six points, five rebounds and three assists.
Dating back to last season, CU has won six consecutive regular season Pac-12 games, its longest streak since a nine-game win streak in the 2012-13 season.
“It’s fantastic,” Payne said of the Buffs’ hot start to the season. “I very much like to stay in the moment as far as our team and what we’re doing and that’s why I use the phrase, ‘We just want to go 1-0 on game day.’ Whoever we play on that day, I want to beat them and that’s it.”
CU had not defeated UCLA since March 6, 2014, at the Pac-12 Tournament. … UCLA was playing its first game since Dec. 11. The Bruins had six games canceled or postponed between games. … Sherrod set career-highs for free throws made (13) and attempted (17). Prior to Sunday, she 20-for-41 (.488) on the season.
What went right: Although the Buffs gave up a season-high in points (63), their defense was good for much of the day. CU forced UCLA into 19 turnovers, with nine steals, and turned those into 17 points.
What went wrong: CU got off to a frigid start (0-for-9 and didn’t shoot well overall (35.8 percent). They also got outrebounded 40-31.
Star of the game: Jaylyn Sherrod. She scored a career-high 25 points, dished eight assists, had two steals and made 13-of-17 free throws.
What’s next: CU is scheduled to host No. 2 Stanford on Friday at 7 p.m.
Colorado 71, UCLA 63
UCLA (5-4, 0-1 Pac-12)
Osborne 5-14 0-0 10, Chou 4-9 6-8 15, Thomas 5-8 0-0 11, Penn 3-10 2-2 10, Anstey 1-2 1-2 3, Horvat 1-4 0-0 2, Owens 2-5 2-2 6, Onu 1-6 3-4 6. Totals 22-58 14-18 63.
COLORADO (13-0, 2-0 Pac-12)
Sherrod 5-12 13-17 25, Formann 5-10 1-2 14, Finau 0-0 0-0 0, Hollingshed 3-13 2-4 10, Tuitele 2-5 2-2 7, Jones 1-3 0-0 2, Miller 0-4 5-6 5, Blacksten 1-1 0-0 2, Wetta 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 19-53 25-33 71.
UCLA 12 13 16 22 – 63
Colorado 10 18 19 24 – 71
3-point goals – UCLA 5-15 (Penn 2-3, Chou 1-3, Thomas 1-3, Onu 1-1, Osborne 0-5), Colorado 8-18 (Formann 3-7, Sherrod 2-5, Hollingshed 2-4, Tuitele 1-1, Jones 0-1). Rebounds – UCLA 40 (Anstey 13), Colorado 31 (Hollingshed 7). Assists – UCLA 10 (Chou 5), Colorado 13 (Sherrod 8). Steals – UCLA 4 (4 players with 1), Colorado 9 (Wetta 3). Turnovers – UCLA 19, Colorado 12. Total fouls – UCLA 25, Colorado 21. Fouled out – Owens. Technical fouls – Owens, Hollingshed. A – 1,652.