Snapshot: CU Buffs WBB 61, Duke 53 (OT)
Turning point: Aaronette Vonleh hit back-to-back layups late in overtime to give the Buffs a five-point cushion that they carried to the finish.
Buff of the game: Quay Miller. Playing her best game in a few weeks, she posted 17 points and 14 rebounds.
What’s next?: Sixth-seeded Colorado will play second-seeded Iowa in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Seattle (5:30 p.m. MT, ESPN).
DURHAM, N.C. – There are easier ways to get from Boulder to Seattle, but for the Colorado women’s basketball team, a detour through North Carolina has made the journey oh-so-sweet.
On Monday night, the sixth-seeded Buffaloes stunned third-seeded Duke, 61-53 in overtime at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and they will move on to the Sweet 16.
“I knew we could do it; it was just a matter of actually doing it,” said senior Quay Miller, who was sensational for the Buffs, with 17 points and 14 rebounds. “Right now, I just feel extremely blessed, for real. I don’t know … I guess I’m still taking it all in, but blessed for sure right now.”
The Buffs (25-8) have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in program history and for the first time since 2003. They will face second-seeded Iowa on Friday in Seattle (5 p.m. MT, ESPN).
This is the first time CU has advanced to the Sweet 16 from the road. The previous six times, the Buffs won games in Boulder to get to this point.
“I freaking love my team,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “I love each and every one of them so much. I’m so unbelievably proud of our tenacity, our ability to just never wilt. When things get hard, we dig in, we lean into each other and we just continue to fight and compete every single possession.”
The Buffs certainly had to dig in and lean on each other in this one. They built a monster lead early, lost the lead late and then dominated in overtime, outscoring the Blue Devils 11-3 in the extra period.
Jaylyn Sherrod added 14 points, six rebounds and six assists, while Aaronette Vonleh had 12 points and six boards for the Buffs.
Duke’s Shayeanna Day-Wilson missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation, sending the game to overtime.
In the extra period, CU forced two early Duke turnovers, the Blue Devils went 0-for-7 from the field and back-to-back buckets from Vonleh gave CU a five-point lead with 1:35 to go.
“Honestly, the whole game was just a blur and all of a sudden we’re up by six in overtime,” said Frida Formann, who had nine points. “You can feel it being right there in front of you. That was just amazing that we could pull away in overtime and really stay the course.”
CU opened the game by building a stunning 15-2 lead, with Miller scoring nine points in that surge.
The Blue Devils slowly clawed back into the game, cutting the CU lead to 32-26 by halftime. Then, Duke dominated the third quarter, taking its first lead with 1:37 to play in the frame. Duke led 43-39 going into the fourth and had the home crowd rocking.
Rather than buckle, the Buffs bonded.
“I think the best thing that we did honestly was just embrace it,” Miller said. “Even though the crowd was going against us, it’s a beautiful environment and we thrive off that. We’ve been the underdogs all season. Having a gym full of people and the band yelling at us and not going for us is what we’re used to. I think we actually play better in those environments just because we’ve adapted that mentality from Jaylyn.
“I guess we look at it as like, oh they’re not cheering for us? Let’s turn it up even more, let’s make them even more mad.”
CU switched to a zone defense to open the fourth and flustered the Blue Devils, who didn’t score in the first 6:05 of the quarter. CU didn’t exactly dominate, but scored the first seven of the quarter to take a 46-43 lead, while forcing Duke into five turnovers.
“That was (associate head coach Toriano Towns’) decision to go zone,” Payne said. “I thought it was a great decision and thought it created some opportunities for us on the offensive end, as well, with some turnovers.”
Duke did go on a 7-0 run to regain the lead, 50-46, with 1:41 to go, but CU regrouped again. Sherrod hit a layup with 1:21 to go and another with 33.9 seconds left to tie the game.
Overall, CU outscored Duke 15-3 in the final 6:41 and had a 22-10 advantage in the last 15 minutes. Duke went 3-for-18 with seven turnovers in those 15 minutes.
“Our zone is not a typical zone,” said Sherrod, who had two steals. “It’s very high pressure and very aggressive and I think once we got to that, it just really got them out of rhythm.”
Duke had been 14-1 at home this season, but couldn’t close the deal this time in front of the home crowd.
“They were better in that five-minute stretch (in overtime) and that’s why they are moving on,” Duke head coach Kara Lawson said. “Terrific team, as I shared with you all over the last couple days. They are very complete. I thought they played with great aggression and we came up a little short. It hurts to come up short at this time of year.”
While Duke was denied its 18th Sweet 16 appearance, the Buffs are moving on to the second weekend of the tournament for the first time since many of the current players were toddlers – or not yet born.
“It’s a blessing to be in this position,” Sherrod said. “I just told the team, being here for four years from where we started to where we are now, I’m just really proud of this program and how far we’ve come and the work we put in, the hours, the belief when nobody else believed.
“When you’re doing (all the hard work), you really don’t see that outcome. It’s all worth it in the end when you get to this point.”
Colorado 61, Duke 53 (OT)
Sherrod 5-17 4-7 14, Jones 0-2 0-0 0, Formann 3-11 2-2 9, Miller 6-12 4-4 17, Vonleh 6-10 0-0 12, Sadler 2-7 0-0 5, Wetta 1-4 2-2 4, McLeod 0-0 0-0 0, Whittaker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-63 12-15 61.
Taylor 3-14 2-2 8, Balogun 5-9 2-2 14, Brown 0-2 0-0 0, Richardson 4-12 0-0 10, Day-Wilson 1-9 2-4 4, De Jesus 3-5 2-2 9, Jackson 0-1 0-0 0, Corosdale 0-1 0-0 0, Oliver 2-4 0-0 4, Heide 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 19-60 10-12 53.
Colorado 21 11 7 11 11 – 61
Duke 11 15 17 7 3 – 53
3-point field goals – Colorado 3-11 (Formann 1-5, Miller 1-1, Sadler 1-1, Sherrod 0-3, Jones 0-1), Duke 5-23 (Balogun 2-5, Richardson 2-5, De Jesus 1-3, Taylor 0-5, Day-Wilson 0-4, Jackson 0-1). Rebounds – Colorado 44 (Miller 14), Duke 35 (Taylor 10). Assists – Colorado 9 (Sherrod, Miller 3), Duke 10 (Taylor 8). Steals – Colorado 11 (4 with 2), Duke 17 (Taylor 10). Turnovers – Colorado 23, Duke 21, Total fouls – Colorado 18, Duke 17. Fouled out – None. A – 1,904.