Even 30 minutes before tipoff, there was a big-game buzz in the CU Events Center that isn’t often felt for women’s basketball.
The crowd on Friday wasn’t the biggest CU has had in recent years, but it was electric. And, while the No. 22 Buffaloes didn’t beat No. 2 Stanford, the fans were treated to a thriller. Stanford won, 60-52, in a game that came down to the final minutes.
After beating top-ranked Stanford in an empty arena last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Buffs soaked up the atmosphere.
“It was just ecstatic,” senior Peanut Tuitele said of the atmosphere. “Last year it was very quiet and we had to create our own energy, but it was really nice to see the Buff nation show and support us.
“I’ve never played in that environment here so it was really nice and I hope that the Buff nation continues to support us because this one game doesn’t define who we are; this loss.”
Official attendance was 3,744, making it the largest crowd for a CU women’s game since 3,781 showed up for a Jan. 28, 2018, game against Oregon State. The previous largest crowd this season was 1,652 for Sunday’s win against UCLA.
The student section was the largest for a CU women’s game in several years.
While the loss itself didn’t define the Buffs, the effort and competitiveness did and head coach JR Payne knows those who came to the Events Center saw two of the best teams in the country.
“I think two really good basketball teams played tonight,” she said. “Two really good teams. Two teams that should be competing at the highest level like we were tonight.”
As a senior, Tuitele has been through tough times at CU and is a big part of the Buffs’ resurgence. She spoke of how far she’s come since her freshman year and added, “I know my teammates’ strengths and their weaknesses, so I play very well off my teammates and I just think I carry myself …”
Emotions stopped her from continuing, other than to say, “Sorry,” as she teared up.
Teammate Quay Miller broke the silence to praise Tuitele, who scored 10 points, pulled down three rebounds and led the Buffs all night.
“Peanut is the one to keep everyone calm during the storm,” Miller said. “She’s typically the one that keeps me calm. … That’s just the type of teammate Peanut is. So I think that’s why she has that maturity level enough to bring herself at ease during frantic times in the game.”
Miller has been a significant contributor all season, so it was no surprise she provided a spark Friday. Miller led the Buffs with 16 points, hitting 6-of-11 shots, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range.
“I think my teammates noticed that I was hot and they just kept looking for me,” said Miller, who is averaging a career-best 12.0 points per game. “They do that every night; whether I’m hot or cold, they look for me. They set me in positions to take great shots and that’s what they did for me tonight.”
Unfortunately for the Buffs, Miller was one of the few players that was hot. Outside of the Miller, the rest of the team was 11-for-46 (23.9 percent) and 2-for-21 from 3-point range (9.5 percent).
CU set the tone early with a suffocating defense and building a 15-4 lead through the first 7 minutes, 33 seconds.
Stanford had 13 first-quarter turnovers – the most ever for a CU opponent in one quarter. At one point, the Cardinal had turnovers on eight consecutive possessions without putting up a shot.
“We like to set records but that’s not the kind of record we want,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. ‘It was frustrating. It was discouraging to see us not do better. But I love the resilience of our team and how people just stay with things, and they continue to play hard and make plays when we needed to. I think people learn through the game. This is what we need you to do, and they did it.”
Stanford had just nine turnovers in the last three quarters combined, but CU didn’t make anything easy throughout the night.
“It just shows how good we are as a defensive team,” Tuitele said. “We came out hot. We were doing our roles. Everyone was guarding who they guard, they knew the scout. And it just shows that we can be one of the best (defensive teams) in the country. And that’s what I felt like this loss was to us; just show that we can defend anybody.”
CU point guard Jaylyn Sherrod came into the game ranking second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio, at 3.56. Against the Cardinal, she had two assists and a season-high five turnovers. On the plus side, she had five steals. … CU is 2-18 all-time against teams ranked in the top three of the Associated Press poll. … Stanford is 4-3 against ranked opponents this season. … CU was out-rebounded 49-27. It’s the largest negative margin for the Buffs since being outrebounded by 23 against Oregon State on Jan. 30, 2020.