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CU Buffs women’s basketball routs Cal in regular season finale

BOULDER,CO: February 25:Colorado Buffaloes' Aaronette Vonleh goes up against the Cal Bears in Boulder on February 25, 2023.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
BOULDER,CO: February 25:Colorado Buffaloes’ Aaronette Vonleh goes up against the Cal Bears in Boulder on February 25, 2023.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Snapshot: CU Buffs women 95, California 69

Turning point: Leading by just six at halftime, the Buffs had a hot start to the third quarter. They opened the frame on a 13-4 run to push the lead to 15 and cruised from there.

Buff of the game: Aaronette Vonleh. The sophomore had a career-high 25 points, on 11-of-14 shooting. She set the tone early with the Buffs’ first six points.

What’s next?: CU will head to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Tournament. After a first-round bye, the Buffs will play in Thursday’s quarterfinals.

So much for that Stanford hangover.

Less than 48 hours after a heartbreaking double-overtime defeat against the perennial power Cardinal, the Colorado women’s basketball team put together one of its most complete performances of the season.

Aaronette Vonleh scored a career-high 25 points to lead the 21st-ranked Buffaloes to a 95-69 rout of California on Saturday at the CU Events Center in the regular season finale.

CU (22-7, 13-5 Pac-12) secured the No. 3 seed for next week’s Pac-12 Tournament, the best conference finish for the program since 2004.

“That is a great way to end the regular season, absolutely,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “Really proud of how we played, particularly in the second half. First half wasn’t too pretty, but I just said in the locker room great teams figure out a way to fix it. It wasn’t our best effort in the first half, but I thought we dug in and played really, really good basketball in the second half. Great team effort tonight.”

The 26-point difference was the third-largest margin of victory for CU in a conference game in the last 20 seasons. The Buffs hit the 90-point mark for the first time since a 96-70 win against Denver on Dec. 12, 2019.

In addition to Vonleh, the Buffs got 19 points from Frida Formann and 16 from Jaylyn Sherrod. Overall, the Buffs shot 55.2% from the floor, had a season-high 23 assists and their second-lowest turnover total (nine) of the season.

“I feel like that’s our expectation every day,” Sherrod said. “I think that today, we just did a good job and locking in and executing. Me and coach J were talking (Friday) and we’re like, ‘We’re a really dangerous team.’ I know Stanford, it was heartbreaking, but I think that opened all of our eyes on the team to be like, ‘Yeah, we can be really good.’ So I think that was just the mentality we took from that game and just applying it for now.”

CU was seconds away from knocking off the Cardinal in the first overtime on Thursday before Stanford pulled away in the second overtime. Rather than dwell on that tough defeat, the Buffs got back to business against Cal.

“Honestly the turnaround is so quick, you don’t really have that much time to dwell on it,” Vonleh said. “I think we did a good job (Friday) just coming into practice focused on Cal and ourselves and what we need to do to get better and keep being successful.”

Vonleh scored CU’s first six points of the game and finished 11-of-14 from the floor.

“I was just kind of, like, (ticked) off after our last loss,” she said. “So just trying to like channel that into my energy today to be successful.”

The Buffs never trailed, but led by only six at halftime, 43-37. A 13-4 run to open the third quarter gave them some breathing room. Cal hit 56.5% of its shots in the first half, but CU held the Bears to 33.3% after the break.

“I just told the team (at halftime) to focus on defense,” Sherrod said. “We pride ourselves on defense, our energy comes from our defense and I thought in the first half, we wasn’t really locked into that. But I think second half, that’s where it got us started just focusing on what we do best.”

Going into the game, CU knew it would finish in third or fourth place, but the only way to guarantee a third-place finish was to win. The Buffs took matters into their own hands in completing the season sweep of the Bears.

“It was really important,” Payne said of taking care of the task at hand. “I think we take a lot of pride in that. … We were solely focused on Cal and ourselves and I think our team does a good job of that. It’s not easy to do that sometimes. We just wanted to come in and win. You just want to win on game day; that’s it. And then move on to the next one.”

No. 21 Colorado 95, California 69

CALIFORNIA (13-16, 4-14 Pac-12)

McIntosh 2-7 2-2 6, Ortiz 2-5 2-2 7, Martin 4-9 2-2 12, Curry 7-17 11-11 26, Tuitele 2-3 0-0 4, Onyiah 3-3 0-2 6, Bonner 1-2 0-0 2, Langarita 0-2 2-4 2, Mastrov 0-1 0-0 0, Muca 0-0 0-0 0, Heide 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 23-52 19-23 69.

COLORADO (22-7, 13-5 Pac-12)

Sherrod 5-9 5-8 16, Jones 2-5 0-0 4, Formann 7-11 3-3 19, Miller 3-11 2-2 8, Vonleh 11-14 3-4 25, Sadler 3-4 0-0 7, Wetta 1-3 1-2 3, Wynn 3-5 0-0 9, McLeod 2-2 0-0 4, Whittaker 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 37-67 14-19 95.

California                    17        20        13        19        –           69

Colorado                     21        22        25        27        –           95

3-point goals – California 4-15 (Martin 2-4, Curry 1-4, Ortiz 1-3, McIntosh 0-3, Mastrov 0-1), Colorado 7-18 (Wynn 3-5, Formann 2-4, Sherrod 1-3, Sadler 1-2, Miller 0-2, Wetta 0-1, Whittaker 0-1). Rebounds – California 29 (Tuitele 6), Colorado 33 (Miller 11). Assists – California 11 (Ortiz 6), Colorado 23 (Sherrod, Wetta 6). Steals – California 5 (Curry 2), Colorado 10 (Wetta 4). Turnovers – California 18, Colorado 9. Total fouls – California 16, Colorado 21. Fouled out – Sherrod. A – 3,452.