As far as season openers go, JR Payne could not have asked for anything more than she got out of her team on Monday afternoon.
Senior Quay Miller had the best game of her career and the Colorado women’s basketball team cruised past New Mexico State, 85-55, at CU Events Center.
“Obviously, we’re really happy with the outcome and I’m actually really happy with how we played,” said Payne, who opened her seventh season as the Buffs’ head coach. “Sometimes you win and you think, ‘We have so much to work on,’ and of course there’s lots to work on still, but really proud of how we played.”
Miller, who was named the Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year last season, made her first start as a Buff and set new career highs with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
“I just do what JR needs me to do, whether that’s start, come off the bench; not play, play the whole game,” said Miller, who was a starter during her time at Washington before transferring to CU a year ago. “I just do what my coach asks me.”
Coaches have asked Miller to step up more than this year after the graduation of All-Pac-12 forward Mya Hollingshed and other key leaders.
Miller responded against New Mexico State by shattering her previous career high of 10 rebounds and knocking down 8-of-11 shots from the floor, including both of her 3-pointers.
“Yeah, definitely,” she said of having a new mindset this year. “Especially being a senior and having so many new players, like transfers and freshmen. I’m just trying to be a leader and set the tone and set the tempo and show them the type of basketball we play in practice and in games.”
The Buffs fell into a 6-0 hole early on Monday, but Miller had nine points in a 21-0 run that flipped the momentum.
“I feel like every first game of the season, people have jitters in general,” said senior point guard Jaylyn Sherrod, who finished with 11 points, four assists and four rebounds. “I think that we had that, but I think we came together well. We all stuck together. We didn’t get too frantic about it and it was just staying together as a team and knowing that it happened; teams go on runs. It’s just how we respond at the end of the day.”
After CU’s big early run, New Mexico State rallied in the second quarter, pulling within 33-28 just before halftime.
Jada Wynn then knocked down a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Buffs an eight-point lead at the break. They extended it to 12 in the first 70 seconds of the third quarter and led by at least 10 the rest of the way, finally pulling away in the fourth quarter.
“I think we definitely will watch that second quarter and really try to evaluate what exactly went wrong, and where could we have sort of stopped the bleeding and things like that,” Payne said. “They’re a really good, scrappy, gritty team and I think during that stretch, we had a couple turnovers, a couple uncontested 3s and just got kind of discombobulated. I thought the second half, we really tried to prioritize spacing, keeping things clean offensively and when we did that, I thought we got much better looks, and we were able to open it up again.”
Pulling away allowed the Buffs to get all 13 players into the game, and 11 scored.
“Everyone seemed prepared to play, came in and contributed,” Payne said. “I thought (Miller and Sherrod) did a great job of keeping us calm and keeping us in the actions that we wanted, and then new players came in brought great energy.
“It’s gonna take some time to figure out a really clean rotation but I thought everybody played really well today.”
CU is 44-4 all-time in season openers and has won the last 23. … The Buffs improved to 11-2 all-time against the Aggies. This was the first meeting between the teams in 27 years. … Miller’s 17 rebounds tied for the 10th-most in CU history and the second-most in a CU opener. Lisa VanGoor had 18 in the 1982-83 season opener against UTEP. … The Buffs were 6-for-12 from 3-point range. … Tayanna Jones stood out on both ends of the floor, finishing with eight points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks. … All four true freshmen – Wynn, Ally Fitzgerald, Lizzie Holder and Brianna McLeod – got their first career points.
Snapshot: CU Buffs vs. New Mexico State
Turning point: CU got off to a slow start, falling behind 6-0, but then responded with a 21-0 run. NMSU rallied in the second quarter, but that big early run set the tone for CU.
Buff of the game: Quay Miller – The senior center posted career highs in points (22) and rebounds (17), dominating on both ends of the floor.
What’s next?: The Buffs will host Jackson State on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Colorado 85, New Mexico State 55
NEW MEXICO STATE (0-1)
Strawbridge 3-7 0-0 7, Kaiser 2-7 3-4 7, Inoussa 5-11 2-4 15, Donaldson 5-13 0-1 10, Thiam 4-16 1-2 10, Peterson 1-2 0-0 2, Yenes 1-4 0-0 2, Grays 1-2 0-0 2, Gueye 0-1 0-0 0, Shida 0-0 0-0 0, Sanchez-Oliver 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-63 6-11 55.
Vonleh 4-5 0-0 8, Miller 8-11 4-7 22, Sherrod 4-10 3-4 11, Jones 3-4 2-2 8, Formann 2-4 4-4 9, Sadler 0-4 0-0 0, Wetta 2-4 2-2 6, McLeod 3-5 0-0 6, Whittaker 0-0 1-2 1, Wynn 3-5 1-2 9, Gerber 0-0 0-0 0, Fitzgerald 1-1 0-0 3, Holder 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 31-54 17-23 85.
New Mexico State 8 20 14 13 – 55
Colorado 21 15 20 29 – 85
3-point goals – NMSU 5-17 (Inoussa 3-8, Thiam 1-3, Strawbridge 1-2, Donaldson 0-2, Kaiser 0-1, Peterson 0-1), Colorado 6-12 (Wynn 2-4, Miller 2-2, Formann 1-2, Fitzgerald 1-1, Sherrod 0-1, Jones 0-1, Sadler 0-1). Rebounds – NMSU 28 (Inoussa 6), Colorado 46 (Miller 17). Assists – NMSU 6 (Peterson, Shida 2), Colorado 19 (Sherrod, Formann, Wetta 4). Steals – NMSU 10 (Inoussa 4), Colorado 6 (Sherrod, Wetta 2). Total fouls – NMSU 19, Colorado 18. Fouled out – None. A – 479.