BOULDER – Freshman Peanut Tuitele scored a season-high 23 points to lead Colorado to a 72-61 win over Washington State on Friday night at the CU Events Center.
Colorado (12-14, 2-13 Pac-12) got contributions from all over the floor. Junior Quinessa Caylao-Do scored 16-second-half points to finish with 20 on the night. Senior Kennedy Leonard totaled 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds in her return to the starting lineup.
"We are just thrilled to get to play again," head coach JR Payne commented. "We are thrilled to have this type of effort and it result in a victory. We have had tremendous efforts like this, we just haven't had the victory to show for it as often as we would like. I just want our team to really enjoy the success of their labor tonight."
The Buffaloes played inspired basketball from start to finish. Washington State gained an early seven-point lead, but Colorado recovered. The rest game was closely contested, featuring 11 lead changes and 10 ties.
A key to the Buffs' success was its ability to create offense. Leonard led the pursuit in the first quarter and gave way to Tuitele in the second. Caylao-Do stepped up big in the second half. Colorado closed the game 48.4 percent (30-36) from the floor, holding WSU to 41.8 percent (25-55).
"I thought we were really competitive all week in practice. Except for the first few minutes of the, we showed that [competitiveness] for the entirety of the game. Tow of my favorite stats tonight are our 18 offensive rebounds and nine turnovers. To shoot the ball well and have those type of stats bodes really well for us."
The Buffs aggressiveness gave the Cougars trouble throughout the night. CU outrebounded WSU 40-24, including 18 offensive rebounds. Colorado almost doubled WSU's effort in the paint. The Buffs outscored the Cougs 46-24 down low.
Borislava Hristova led Washington State with 16 points, while Chanelle Molina and Alexys Swedlund finished with 13 and 11, respectively.
HOW IT HAPPENED: The Cougars got the early 7-0 jump on the Buffs in the game's opening minutes. The Buffs started 0-for-4 from the field before Leonard broke through. She scored all six points in a 12-2 Colorado run, handing the Buffs a 12-9 lead. Colorado finished the period with a two-point advantage, 16-14, shooting 50 percent (8-for-16).
Washington State (9-17, 4-11) regained the lead early in the second quarter. WSU outscored the Buffs 9-4 in the first three minutes. Tuitele took over from there, sinking a 3-pointer to tie the game at 3. She scored nine consecutive points for Colorado, totaling 13 in the quarter. She and Leonard combined for four points in the final minute of the quarter to give CU a 38-35 lead at the break.
The Buffs got off to a slow start out of the break, opening 2-for-8.WSU took advantage with a 10-5 run, regaining the lead at 47-43. From there it was Caylao-Do's turn to carry the workload. She scored CU's next six points, putting the Buffs back up 49-47.
Colorado's free-throw shooting was put on display in the second half. CU went 7-for-8 in the third quarter, including a 7-for-7 finish to the period, to help the Buffs to a 57-54 lead.
Caylao-Do continued to have the hot hand in the final quarter. She scored CU's first six points, helping the Buffs extend the lead to 63-53 midway through the period. CU's defense turned up the heat, limited WSU to seven points in the quarter. Leonard put CU up six (67-61) with 2:30 to play and Emma Clarke hit a key 3-pointer to put the Cougs away.
TURNING POINT: CU's defense limited Washington State to 2-for-10 shooting in the fourth quarter. Washington State went 0-for-6 to open the quarter, netting its first field goal at the 3:37 mark of the period. CU also struggled through a 0-for-5 span that kept the game within five points. CU closed with a 7-0 run, holding WSU off the scoreboard in the final 2:16.
WHAT IT MEANS: The win moves Colorado out of the basement of the Pac-12. The Buffs jump over Washington for the 11-seed in the standings. The Huskies fell to 1-13 in the conference with its 88-56 loss at Utah on Friday.
KEY STATISTICS: CU's plus-16 rebounding margin led to 17 second-chance points…Colorado outscored WSU 12-2 on the fast break.
NOTEWORTHY: The Buffs played without Alexis Robinson for the second consecutive game…Colorado improved to 11-6 all-time against Washington State…CU shot over 45 percent from the field for the first time since its win over Southern California…Tuitele became the first freshman to score 20 points since Hollingshed on Mar. 2, 2018 (20 against Oregon)…it was the second time this season CU had two players score 20 or more points (Leonard, Jank/North Carolina)...CU's nine turnovers were the third-fewest of the season…CU totaled 22 points in the second quarter, marking a new second quarter high for Pac-12 games…the team's 46 points in the paint was the most in a conference game this season.
QUOTEWORTHY: "My teammates set me up for success because Mya [Hollingshed] and Kai [Volcy] are just as strong as them [WSU]. They can do multiple things and with them helping me that has led to my success in guarding the bigger posts so far this season." – CU's Peanut Tuitele
"I stayed confident during halftime. We knew it was really important for us to come out strong in the third quarter. Being able to help the team got my energy going and being able to score." CU's Quinessa Caylao-Do
"We have a resilient group. We have a really tough-minded group that wants to be successful and wants to work for each other. We are not perfect. We haven't had perfect practices, but our effort is really good most nights. Our competitiveness is pretty good most nights. I think it is a testament to our leadership. Two of our leaders are sitting right here [Peanut and Quinessa]. They have helped maintain that level of effort, toughness and togetherness through a difficult stretch."
NEXT UP: CU closes out the home season with Senior Day on Sunday. The Buffs will host a pregame ceremony honoring Kennedy Leonard and Alexis Robinson prior to taking on the Washington Huskies (1 p.m.).