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End of the line: CU Buffs women’s basketball ousted by Iowa in Sweet 16

Iowa's Monika Czinano, right, dribbles the ball under the basket as Colorado's Frida Formann defends a Sweet 16 game in the women's NCAA Tournament Friday night in Seattle. (AP Photo/Caean Couto)
Iowa’s Monika Czinano, right, dribbles the ball under the basket as Colorado’s Frida Formann defends a Sweet 16 game in the women’s NCAA Tournament Friday night in Seattle. (AP Photo/Caean Couto)

Snapshot: Iowa 87, Colorado WBB 77

Turning point: A 13-0 run by Iowa early in the third quarter turned a one-point CU lead into a 12-point deficit. The Buffs never fully recovered.

Buff of the game: Frida Formann. Before fouling out, she was the leader of the offense, scoring a team-high 21 points.

What’s next?: The Buffaloes head to the offseason.

SEATTLE – The disappointment hurt as much as the bumps and bruises, but for the Colorado women’s basketball team, there was also a sense of pride as it saw a remarkable and unexpected NCAA Tournament run come to an end on Friday night.

“I just told the team there’s nothing to hang our heads down about,” senior point guard Jaylyn Sherrod said. “This was a great season. We answered a lot of questions that people had about us.”

Once again, Colorado’s effort was elite, but this time, the result was not, as second-seeded Iowa ousted the sixth-seeded Buffs, 87-77, in the Sweet 16 at Climate Pledge Arena.

“We’re all battered and bruised from that game,” said Sherrod, who finished with 11 points and nine assists. “But I’m proud of this team. We stayed resilient. We fought through. When things got hard, we were all in the huddles keeping our heads up on to the next play mentality and I think that’s what led to the push in the late fourth quarter.

“You always want to win. We’re a good ballclub and all of us want to win, so it sucks that we didn’t get the win tonight, but at the end of the day it’s on to the next and each one of these players have something to look forward to.”

Projected to finish eighth in the Pac-12 before the season, the Buffaloes exceeded expectations all year. They finished third in the conference and made a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Then, they won a tourney game for the first time in 20 years and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003.

And, in front of a national audience on ESPN, CU (25-9) hung with the highly touted Hawkeyes (29-6) all night. The Buffs just couldn’t fully rally after a big Iowa run in the third quarter.

Colorado's Jaylyn Sherrod (00) leaps toward the basket to score on a layup against Iowa during the second half of a Sweet 16 college basketball game in the women's NCAA Tournament in Seattle, Friday, March 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Caean Couto)
Colorado’s Jaylyn Sherrod (00) leaps toward the basket to score on a layup against Iowa during the second half of a Sweet 16 college basketball game in the women’s NCAA Tournament in Seattle, Friday, March 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Caean Couto)

“Just, as always, really proud of our team, how we competed and never wilted,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “I think we went down double digits twice and just never stopped competing. I think that’s the sign of a very resilient group, which we are very resilient. Just a tough, hard-nosed game. Credit to Iowa. They’re a very good team obviously and I just wish them the best of luck moving forward.”

First-team All-American Caitlin Clark had 31 points, including 18 in the second half, as well as eight assists, to lead the Hawkeyes, who advanced to Sunday’s Elite Eight against fifth-seeded Louisville. The Cardinals outlasted Mississippi, 72-62, on Friday night.

After falling behind 15-5 midway through the first quarter, CU fought back to take a 40-39 lead into halftime, as Frida Formann scored 19 of her team-high 21 points before the break.

Iowa had a 13-0 run early in the third, however, that proved to be the difference. Clark had seven points in that run, punctuating it with a 3-pointer, steal and layup in a span of 13 seconds.

“We were missing some shots and Iowa is just a team that goes on runs pretty easily,” Formann said. “They want to score fast and shoot the ball. You can’t really dwell on your own misses too long or how you’re playing, so I think we just needed to adjust. But they just come at you fast. That’s how they play.”

Still, CU didn’t crumble. Foul trouble plagued the Buffs all night, but after the Iowa lead reached 15, Quay Miller got hot and CU rallied. Miller had all 12 of her points in a span of 7 minutes, 20 seconds to cut the Iowa lead to 76-70 with 4:14 to play in the fourth.

“I think my teammates were just waiting for me to get started,” said Miller, who had 14 rebounds to go with her 12 points. “I just didn’t want to leave anything out on the floor.”

The Buffs got as close as 78-74 with 1:42 to go, but the Hawkeyes scored the next seven points to put the game away and end CU’s best season in two decades.

“I am so proud. I love my team so much,” Payne said. “You guys see the basketball, you see the tenacity and the toughness and the fearlessness. I see young women that celebrate each other in their hardest moments. I see young women that pour into their studies and their academics. As hard as they play, they study just as hard. Think how hard that is to pour all of your heart and soul into basketball and school and being in our community and celebrating the other sports on our campus.

“So I absolutely love our team. I love what the young women in our program are about and I just couldn’t be more proud to be the head coach of the University of Colorado.”

Iowa 87, Colorado 77


Vonleh 7-13 0-0 14, Miller 5-16 0-0 12, Sherrod 5-11 1-6 11, Jones 1-5 2-2 5, Formann 8-15 1-2 21, Sadler 3-11 1-2 9, Wetta 2-5 0-0 5, McLeod 0-0 0-0 0, Whittaker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 31-76 5-12 77.

IOWA (28-6)

Warnock 4-6 3-4 12, Czinano 7-9 1-1 15, Martin 3-8 8-11 16, Clark 11-22 5-6 31, Marshall 3-6 0-0 7, Stuelke 0-0 0-0 0, Affolter 0-0 0-0 0, Davis 1-2 0-0 2, O’Grady 1-2 2-2 4. Totals 30-55 19-24 87.

Colorado                     22        18        13        24        –           77

Iowa                            23        16        25        23        –           87

3-point field goals – Colorado 10-31 (Formann 4-9, Sadler 2-8, Miller 2-7, Jones 1-2, Wetta 1-2, Sherrod 0-3), Iowa 8-19 (Clark 4-9, Martin 2-3, Marshall 1-4, Warnock 1-3). Rebounds – Colorado 40 (Miller 14), Iowa 32 (Czinano 7). Assists – Colorado 21 (Sherrod 9), Iowa 18 (Clark 8). Steals – Colorado 6 (Vonleh 2), Iowa 6 (Clark, Marshall 2). Turnovers – Colorado 11, Iowa 13. Total fouls – Colorado 24, Iowa 16. Fouled out – Formann, Sherrod, Vonleh.