STANFORD, Calif. - The Colorado women's basketball team encountered another in-game lapse on Sunday against Stanford, rallied from it, but couldn't finish its comeback and fell 69-56 to the No. 6 Cardinal at Maples Pavilion.
The No. 20 Buffaloes held their own for most of the first half, staying within single digits of the Cardinal by halftime (35-26). That gap could've been smaller, however, had the Buffs not given up 10 first-half turnovers and allowed the Cardinal to go on a 9-3 run to cap the first half.
Colorado didn't regain its momentum until midway through the second half, and with 14:25 remaining, Stanford had already built a 21-point lead from which CU could not recover. That slow second-half start, CU head coach Linda Lappe said, was reminiscent of another scoring drought the Buffs had the last time they played Stanford - a 57-40 loss on Jan 4.
"In both games that we've played these guys, we've had a stretch where we have not played very well, and we've just given them way too many opportunities," Lappe said. "We weren't making them work to get that 21-point lead, and that's probably the most disappointing thing, in both games. Last time it was at the beginning of the game, this time it was right before half into the second half."
With the loss, the Buffaloes drop to 15-4 overall and 4-4 in Pac-12 Conference play, while Stanford improves to 18-2 and 7-1 in the Pac-12.
The two teams were ranked No. 1 and 2 in the conference in scoring defense entering the game, with the Buffs holding opponents to 52.7 points per game and the Cardinal 52.9. On Sunday, though, Stanford's defense prevailed, forcing 18 Colorado turnovers.
Despite its ineffective opening to the second half, CU had nearly 15 minutes to play and wasn't about to give up. The Buffs brought themselves back into contention with a 12-0 run, trimming the score to 51-42 with 10:45 remaining. The Cardinal's lead eventually shrunk to just seven (53-46) as Brittany Wilson hit a three with eight minutes on the clock.
But every time Colorado brought the energy, Stanford responded. With 6:10 remaining, Stanford made what turned out to be a five-point play: forward Joslyn Tinkle hit a three-pointer, and missed her "and-1" shot, which forward Chiney Ogwumike rebounded for a layup.
It was the spark the Cardinal needed to bring the game home.
"We didn't close out with our high hands, we run into the shooter and then we don't box out on the free throw, and that was a huge deal at that point in the game," Lappe said. "It gave them a lot of momentum."
Though the Buffs kept fighting, they would never get closer than 10 points.
Lappe said that while Stanford brought a high level of play to the game, many of the Buffs' mistakes were of their own creation.
"We didn't do nearly enough that it was going to take to win tonight," Lappe said, "and I felt like we controlled a lot of that."
But junior guard Ashley Wilson, who scored five of her seven points during CU's second-half comeback attempt, said her team had to feel that a win was still possible until the final buzzer.
"It's just never giving up. No matter what position we're in, we have to fight, fight 'till when the horn goes off," Wilson said. "We've just got to be ready to bounce back. That's all we can do every single time is bounce back and not let it defeat us."
Sophomore forward Jamee Swan led Colorado in scoring with 14 points off the bench, while senior guard Chucky Jeffery added 13. Jeffery and redshirt freshman forward Arielle Roberson grabbed a team-high seven boards each, helping CU to out-rebound the Cardinal 39-33.
Stanford's Ogwumike led all scorers with 20, adding 12 rebounds to earn her 15th double-double of the season. Three other Stanford players - Tinkle, guard Toni Kokenis and guard Amber Orrange - also scored in double figures, as the Cardinal hit 49.1 percent from the field compared to CU's 36.1 percent.
Colorado has now played both of the Pac-12's top-10 teams, Cal and Stanford, twice each, with those four games being the Buffs' only conference losses.
Ashley Wilson said there were definite benefits to taking on such tough competition early in the season.
"We know we can play with the top teams in the country, we've proven that multiple times," Wilson said. "So now we just have to take this confidence, take the positives out of this game and just let it keep rolling into the next few games."
CU plays the third of four straight away games on Friday night against UCLA. The matchup is set for 9 p.m. MST and will air on the Pac-12 Network.