Buffs women's basketball falls to Utes in Pac-12 Opener

By  | 

BOULDER, Colo. Colorado put four players in double figures Sunday but couldn't match Utah's hot shooting from 3-point range, as the Buffs dropped a 76-61 decision at the CU Events Center in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

The Buffs saw a four-game win streak come to an end and fell to 10-2 overall while Utah remained unbeaten, improving to 12-0.

Neither team shot particularly well overall from the field, with Utah hitting just 30 of its 72 field goal tries (41.7 percent) while CU was 22-for-56 (39.3 percent). But the Utes hit 13 of their 22 3-point attempts while Colorado was just 4-for-17 from beyond the arc.

Utah also held a 43-35 edge on the boards, including 15 offensive rebounds, which helped produce a 17-6 edge in second-chance points.

Alexis Robinson led Colorado with 14 points, Kennedy Leonard chipped in 13 and Mya Hollingshed and Peanut Tuitele each had 10. Leonard also had six assists and moved past Bridget Turner into first place on CU's career list in that category now with 615.

Andrea Torres led Utah with 18 points.

"As a whole, I thought Utah outplayed us today, from the rebounding to loose balls," CU coach JR Payne said. "They won those toughness categories and then shot the absolute lights out of it. They don't typically shoot the ball that well and the combination of the way they were shooting that ball combined with the offensive rebounding they were getting made it really difficult for us to close that gap."

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffs jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead before the Utes put together a 9-0 run to take an 11-6 edge at the 6:15 mark of the first quarter. Colorado came back to tie the game at several junctures in the first half, including 21-21 early in the second quarter on a Robinson 3-pointer.

But every time the Buffs battled back, the Utes had an answer — usually from the 3-point line — to take a 41-35 lead at halftime.

"It's virtually impossible to compete with a team that's shooting 8-for-11 from the 3-point line in the first half," Leonard said. "You come down and you take a quick shot and then they come down and hit a three. You defend for 28 seconds and they hit a shot with one second left on the shot clock. I don't think we necessarily played bad defense, they were just hitting shots."

The Buffs momentarily cut Utah's lead to four on a Hollingshed bucket to open the second half, but the Utes quickly put together a 6-0 run to regain control and pushed their lead to as much as 11. But a pair of Hollingshed free throws and a Robinson layup in the final minute of the period pulled CU back to within seven, 56-49, heading into the final quarter.

That, though, was as close as Colorado could come. Thanks to a flurry of offensive rebounds and second-chance points — Utah had 10 offensive rebounds in the second half — the Utes slowly built a double-digit cushion and Colorado never challenged down the stretch.

Normally a 36.6 percent shooting team from 3-point range, Utah's 13 3-pointers tied a season high, with six different Utes hitting at least one. Backup post player Torres was particularly effective, going 7-for-11 from the field, including 4-for-7 from long distance.

TURNING POINT: With just under seven minutes to play, the Buffs were still within seven, 61-54, before Utah went on a quick 5-0 run to build the margin to 12. Colorado never came closer than nine again.

WHAT IT MEANS: A missed opportunity to open Pac-12 play with a win at home now means the Buffs need to pick up a couple of wins next weekend when they host Arizona and Arizona State.

CU STANDOUTS: Mya Hollingshed had 10 points and eight rebounds. … Kennedy Leonard had 13 points, seven boards and six assists. … Peanut Tuitele had 10 points and four rebounds. … Alexis Robinson had a team-high 14 points.

KEY STATISTICS: The Utes hit 13-of-22 3-point attempts (59 percent) and held a 43-35 edge on the boards that helped them to a 17-6 edge in second-chance points.

NOTEWORTHY: Colorado had four players in double figures for the sixth time this season…Utah's bench outscored CU, 28-7… Utah shot an opponent high 59.1% (13-22) from 3…Leonard tied assist record in the first minute of the second quarter on Robinson's 3…she set the record with an assist to Tuitele at 6:48 in the 2nd…CU had 13 rebounds in the first quarter…16 of CU's 18 first quarter-points came in the paint…Robinson matched her season-high with 14 points…Utah's lead grew to 15 (1:44, 4th).

QUOTEWORTHY: "Those of us in the Pac-12 know you have to take care of business at home. We have 17 regular season games left and this means we have to go steal one on the road at some point. We're growing, we're continuing to get better. All of us will be watching a lot of film over the next two or three days, finding areas as coaches that we can do better, as players that we can do better, as teammates" — CU head coach JR Payne

"We lost. I don't play basketball for records, I play to win and we didn't win. It's cool but I'd rather win the game." — Kennedy Leonard on becoming CU's all-time assist leader

"Lesson learned. We can learn a lot from this game when we turn on the film. Pick what we could have done better and apply it to the next game." CU's Mya Hollingshed

NEXT UP: Colorado continues a three-game homestand Friday with a 7 p.m. game against Arizona at the CU Events Center.