BOULDER – The bumpy road for the University of Colorado women's basketball team continued on Friday night. The Buffaloes outplayed No. 6/7 Stanford in the first half but were unable to hold off one of the top teams in the nation, dropping the contest 80-69.
Colorado, already without senior Kennedy Leonard, got hit by the injury bug prior to Friday's tip-off. The Buffs were left with eight healthy players in its rotation, playing the Cardinal without Peanut Tuitele, Mathilde Diop and Aubrey Knight.
The Buffs did not let its low numbers affect morale. CU came out and won three out of the four quarters, holding the lead for a majority of the night. It was a strong third quarter by the Cardinal that proved too much to overcome for the Buffs. Stanford totaled 32 points on 12 field goals in third, outscoring its first-half total (28).
"I'm wildly proud of our team tonight," head coach JR Payne commented. "I told them that a lot of people maybe want us to feel sorry for ourselves and that's just not in our makeup. Whoever was healthy enough to play tonight—I knew they would give everything they have because that's just who they are."
Colorado's hot hand got the Buff faithful going early on Friday night. Stanford opened with a 4-0 run, but freshman Lesila Finau hit a 3 to put get CU's night started. Senior Alexis Robinson hit CU's second triple, giving the Buffs the 6-4 advantage. CU continued to hit from long range, going 4-of-7 in the period on the way to an 18-13 lead.
"I would have to say Lesila was the one that really got our energy going," Robinson said. "That first three, she came down and clapped. I was like 'I've never seen that from Lesila.' She gave us a lot of energy, she played really well."
The Buffs got four quick points from Annika Jank and Mya Hollinghsed to push its lead to eight, 22-14, in the opening minutes of the second quarter. A 3 from Jank moved CU's lead to double digits, 30-20, giving the Buffs its largest advantage of in the Pac-12 season. Robinson scored eight points on 2-of-6 shooting to keep Colorado's lead at eight (36-28) at the half.
Stanford took the energy out from under the Buffaloes in the third quarter. An 8-0 Cardinal run followed a free-throw from Quinessa Caylao-Do to open the quarter, slimming the CU lead to 37-36. A layup from Jank closed the run, putting Colorado back up by three, 39-36, with four minutes gone in the quarter. Colorado continued to lead until Alanna Smith's 3-pointer put Stanford ahead, 48-46, with 4:09 on the clock. Stanford closed the quarter on a 15-3 run, taking a 60-48 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Cardinal lead grew to 19 points in the fourth quarter, before the Buffs began their comeback. Robinson drilled a 3 to trigger CU's offense. Robinson's fifth 3 of the night cut the deficit to eight points (72-64) with 3:29 to play. Colorado continued to threaten in the final minutes, again cutting the lead to eight (77-69) with 23 seconds to play. Stanford held on with free throws in the final seconds, getting the lead back up to double figures.
Robinson led the Buffs with her second straight 20-point game. She finished with a season-high 25 points on 6-of-17 shooting. Jank returned to the starting lineup with a 10 point, 10 rebound effort. Mya Hollingshed added 14 points and five rebounds.
Alanna Smith led all scorers with 26 points. Kiana Williams contributed 20 points for Stanford, while Dijonai Carrington closed her night with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
The loss throws CU's skid to seven games. The Buffs are now 10-8 on the season and remain winless in the Pac-12. The Cardinal improves to 17-1 overall and 7-0 in conference play.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado's energy matched its play in the first 20 minutes of play. The Buffs were the hungrier team leading the attack. CU outscored Stanford 18-0 from long distance in the first half. CU shut down the ninth-ranked 3-point shooting team in the nation, holding the Cardinal to 0-for-13.
The Cardinal got back on track in the third quarter, using five 3's on its way to racking up 32 points. Stanford's defense limited the Buffs opportunities, holding CU to 3-for-14 in the quarter. Alanna Smith did most her damage in the quarter, scoring 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting.
The shorthanded Buffs were outscored 11-0 off the bench in the quarter.
TURNING POINT: Stanford's 8-1 start to the third quarter put Colorado on its heels. The Cardinal found their rhythm and flipped the script on the Buffs. Stanford used runs of 8-0 and 12-0 in the quarter to outscore CU by 20 in the period.
WHAT IT MEANS: Colorado has gone more than a month since its last win. The Buffs last defeated Samford (81-29) on Dec. 20 to close out non-conference play.
NOTEWORTHY: Colorado was without senior Kennedy Leonard for the fourth consecutive games…she continues to be day-to-day…Colorado had nine bench points in the first half, better than its previous two games (6 points in each game)…Stanford's 32 points in the third quarter were the most allowed by CU this season…Colorado led for 21:36…CU outrebounded Stanford 44-42…Stanford's 42 points in the paint tied North Carolina for the most by an opponent this season…Colorado's 10 points in the paint were its fewest this season...Robinson moved past Bianca Smith for 23rd on CU's scoring list with 1,143 career points.
QUOTEWORTHY: "I thought Colorado played very had. They're in a situation where they have a lot of kids hurt and haven't won a Pac-12 game. You saw that team's character and they really battled. They beat us three out of four quarters. That's a real credit to their team and their coaching staff. We had a big third quarter and made some shots, but I think we can play a lot better." – Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer
"We believe that we can compete with any team. That's not being cocky, we just believe tremendously in our work ethic. We believe in the toughness. I think we believe so strongly in each other and that's where our confidence comes from. We know that if we're capable of outworking people if we're capable of out-toughing people and we knock down shots and we rebound we give ourselves a great chance to be successful." – CU head coach JR Payne
"I think we'll have a lot of confidence going into Sunday, knowing that we can compete with anyone and everyone. I'm hoping we can go get Cal." – CU sophomore Annika Jank
NEXT UP: Colorado closes out the week with Cal on Sunday (1 p.m.).