Second-Half Comeback Pushes Buffs Past Sun Devils

TEMPE, Ariz. - The No. 21 Colorado women's basketball team turned an eight-point first half deficit into an eight-point victory here Sunday afternoon, earning a 71-63 win over Arizona State.

Having won at Arizona 55-42 on Friday, CU celebrated its first road sweep in its brief Pac-12 Conference history.

"That was our goal this weekend, to win two road games in a row," said Colorado head coach Linda Lappe. "Good teams are able to win on the road, and we've shown that we can do that."

Sophomore forward Jen Reese led the Buffs with a career-high 22 points, six more than her previous high.

The victory was the fifth straight for CU and its 20th this season, pushing the Buffs to 20-5 overall and 9-5 in conference play. The Sun Devils fall to 11-15, 3-11 and are now on a seven-game losing streak.

Both teams scored in surges in the first half, but the Sun Devils had momentum on their side. After ASU scored the first two baskets of the game, CU scored seven straight. But the Sun Devils responded with a 10-0 run of their own, building an eight-point lead with 13:26 left in the half.

Though the Buffs would add another 6-0 run to close the gap to three (23-20) with six minutes remaining, the Sun Devils' offense surged from there. ASU would eventually gain its largest lead of the half - 12 - at the 2:05 mark and enter intermission up 35-27.

CU outrebounded ASU 26-16 in the first half but struggled from the field, shooting less than 30 percent while the Sun Devils shot close to 50. The Buffs also committed eight first-half turnovers which led to 15 Sun Devil points.

Reese said that while the Buffs consider themselves a strong second-half team, they realized they hadn't played their best basketball in the first half and needed to refocus.

"We just had to get more focused," Reese said. "We're always a second-half team, but we've got to be a first-half team as well and play a full 40 minutes. We just had to get our heads in the game, and we did that, we came out and we took it to them."

The Sun Devils still had their momentum for the start of the second half, but with 16:22 on the clock, the Buffs - led by Reese and redshirt freshman forward Arielle Roberson - turned up the energy.

Roberson hit a career-high three treys in nine minutes as part of an 18-6 run, and the Buffs built a lead (54-49) they wouldn't lose on Roberson's third three-pointer with seven minutes remaining.

After going scoreless in the first half, Roberson surged to finish the game with 16 total points and eight rebounds. In the absence of sophomore guard Lexy Kresl, who left the game with a shoulder injury early in the half, Lappe said Roberson stepped up from beyond the arc in surprising fashion.

"You've got to give Arielle a lot of credit because she doesn't work on her three a whole lot in practice," Lappe said. "When Lexy was down, we needed another scoring threat on the outside . . . she did what our team needed. If that meant changing positions, she was ready to step up and show us her competitive spirit."

Reese's 22 points were both a game and career-high; the sophomore also added eight rebounds and was a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line.

"Jen played excellent," Lappe said. "She was good on both ends of the floor, both offense and defense. She was aggressive, scored in a lot of different ways, kept a lot of balls alive by tipping it out to teammates."

Senior guard Chucky Jeffery was the third CU player in double figures, earning her 28th career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Lappe said before the game that it would be difficult to prepare for ASU's offense in the absence of one standout scorer, and that balance showed Sunday afternoon.

"They have a number of different players that are doing some good things for them," Lappe said. "When they don't have a go-to player, it's about everybody stepping up on defense and understanding that at any point anybody on their team can get hot. Sometimes that's more dangerous than maybe having one player."

The Sun Devils had three players reach double figures: forward Janae Fulcher, guard Promise Amukamara and guard Adrianne Thomas scored 14 points apiece.

The Buffs outrebounded their opponents 50-35, including 23 offensive rebounds, as four CU players grabbed seven or more boards.

CU also ended the game with just 10 turnovers compared to ASU's 13 and committed just two in the second half. That performance was a vast improvement from Friday's matchup against Arizona, in which the Buffs' turnover total was 20.

Lappe said turning the ball over less often in the second half was key to the Buffs' victory.

"They were basically scoring off of every possession that we turned it over, and that was one of the reasons they had so many points at halftime," Lappe said. "I thought in the second half we settled in, we moved the ball well, we took what the defense gave us . . . we just played all-around together. Two turnovers in one half is admirable."

CU returns home this week to take on Washington State on Friday (7 p.m.) and Washington on Sunday (2 p.m.) at the Coors Events Center.