LOS ANGELES - The No. 22 Colorado women's basketball team had an opportunity on Friday night to gain a win over a ranked Pac-12 Conference opponent for the first time this season - but the Buffs couldn't capitalize.
Shooting just 20 percent in the first half and 28.6 percent overall, CU fell to No. 18 UCLA 62-46 at Pauley Pavilion.
It was the Buffs' third straight road game against a ranked opponent, having fallen to then-No. 7 California and then-No. 4 Stanford last weekend. Now 4-5 in the Pac-12 and 15-5 overall, CU has just one day to regroup before taking on Southern California Sunday at 10 a.m. MST.
Colorado was No. 1 in the conference in scoring defense going into Friday's matchup, holding opponents to an average of 52.1 points per game - but UCLA's forceful offense was too much for the Buffs to handle.
The Bruins (16-4, 7,-2) shot 55.5 percent from the field, improving from 44 percent in the first half to 70 in the second. Senior guard/forward Markel Walker led the Bruins with 17 points, and senior forward Alyssa Brewer added 10.
Junior guard Brittany Wilson and senior guard Chucky Jeffery led CU in scoring with 12 and 11, respectively. The Buffs, however, didn't show their usual scoring depth, with all non-starters combined scoring just nine points.
Rebounding, though, was perhaps Colorado's biggest struggle. The Buffs were outrebounded 25-16 at the half and 44-29 on the night. Four Bruins recorded at least six rebounds, while only one CU player had more than four.
The Buffs did force 29 Bruin turnovers while only committing 17. CU head coach Linda Lappe said that while that may have been the only positive on the stat sheet for her team, the inability to capitalize off of those turnovers was costly for the Buffs.
"They gave us plenty of opportunities," Lappe said. "Obviously they weren't really ever threatened by us, and so perhaps they gave away some passes that they wouldn't have if the game had been closer."
Lappe said her team was capable of much more than it showed Friday night, especially on the defensive end.
"We didn't have any mental toughness tonight," Lappe said. "I mean, we were really a shell of ourselves. We didn't rebound, we didn't really play defense, we didn't play together."
CU started with a bang in the first half, going up six on a Lexy Kresl three with 16:32 remaining. When UCLA's Walker responded with a 6-0 run of her own, though, the Buffs were unable to recover. In the 10 minutes following Walker's run, Colorado scored just three points, allowing the Bruin's lead to grow to 14 with five minutes left in the half.
By intermission, CU had recorded only 15 points to UCLA's 29.
The Buffs found some energy with a 6-2 run at the start of the second half, even closing the Bruins' lead to 11 with 14:43 remaining.
Ultimately, though, an inconsistent CU offense paired with UCLA's dominance on the boards prevented the Buffs from a successful comeback.
With 6:41 on the clock, UCLA's lead had grown to 19 - and while Colorado would not stop fighting, the shots simply didn't fall.
"We were off the entire night," Lappe said. "We couldn't make layups. We weren't necessarily turning the ball over a ton, but we just couldn't get stops. We were on our heels the entire night. When we did get a stop, they'd get an offensive rebound put-back, or they'd get to the free throw line because we'd bail them out. There are so many things to point to that I can't even name just one."
The Buffs have just one day to regroup before taking on USC and Lappe doesn't plan to waste that time.
"We've just got to get back to the drawing board, we've got to figure out how to get ready for the next game," Lappe said. "Play like we can play, play with a sense of confidence, understand what we're trying to do. We've got to play together. We just have to get back to doing the things that we were doing to win so many games that we seemed to not want to do tonight."
CU returns to the Coors Events Center next week for the first time since Jan. 20 to take on Oregon State and Oregon