FORT COLLINS – The Colorado women’s basketball team withstood a late Colorado State comeback and escaped with a 63-59 win in its 2013-14 season opener Tuesday night at Moby Gym.
No. 17 CU led by as many as 13 points twice in the final 10 minutes, including 59-46 with 6:43 to play. But the Rams outscored them 13-1 during that span and pulled to within 60-59 on a basket by Ellen Nystrom with 2:15 to play.
CSU had an opportunity to go ahead on a possession in the final minute, but CU’s Arielle Roberson stole the ball with 51 seconds to play. Jasmine Sborov hit two free throws with 27 seconds left, giving her a career-high 13 points and putting the Buffs ahead 62-59.
After Buffs center Rachel Hargis blocked Elin Gustavsson at the other end, Brittany Wilson hit one of two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining – and the Buffs had escaped 63-59.
The Buffs, who won 72-46 last season in Boulder and padded their series lead to 34-11, return to the Coors Events Center on Friday night to play Alcorn State in their home opener (7 p.m.).
CU benefited from balanced scoring from its five starters, with Roberson and Sborov each scoring 13. Jen Reese added eight points.
CSU (0-2) was led by Gustavsson’s 21, with Sam Martin adding 10.
The Buffs opened by hitting four of their first eight field goal attempts and went ahead 10-4 before cooling off. When the cold touches arrived, they lingered; CU went 0-for-7 from the field during a 6:18 stretch and CSU took advantage.
The Rams caught and overtook the Buffs 11-10 at on a Sam Martin three-pointer with 11:15 left in the first half and increased their lead to as many as four (22-18) just under 5 minutes later. During that Rams run, the Buffs’ lone spark was freshman Zoe Beard-Fails, who got five points and two rebounds in 2 minutes.
With about 5 minutes left before halftime, CU appeared to at least temporarily solve its turnover (10 for the half) and shooting problems and launched a 13-0 run that opened a nine-point lead. After an Ashley Wilson basket to start the surge, Reese scored on a put-back and a turnaround jumper from the foul line, Roberson hit a jumper, Reese followed with another and Lauren Huggins drained a three-pointer.
Suddenly, the Buffs were up 31-22, although by halftime the Rams had trimmed that lead to 33-27. CU wound up shooting 38.2 percent (13-of-34) from the field in the first 20 minutes, while CSU closed at 32.1 (9-of-28). The Buffs outrebounded the Rams 26-17, with guard Lexy Kresl tying a career board high with eight. She also had three of the CU’s 10 first-half assists.
Kresl grabbed her ninth rebound – a career-best – early in the second half, which started as the Sborov show. The 6-0 junior scored CU’s first six points of the half on two field goals and a pair of free throws, jump-starting an 11-5 run that sent the Buffs up by 12 (44-32).
They led by as many as 13 points twice in the final before the Rams launched their comeback and put a large opening-night scare into the visitors.