Brooks: Swan’s Late Energy Lifts Buffs Over Cowgirls
BOULDER – If Jen Reese was the starter, Jamee Swan was the closer – and for Swan the role was unconventional. Out of the starting lineup for the first time this season, Swan bounded off the bench to score 16 second-half points and help push the Colorado women’s basketball team past Wyoming 76-71 on Sunday afternoon.
CU (7-3) won its 400th game at the Coors Events Center and defeated Wyoming for the fifth straight time. The Buffaloes lead the series 37-9, including 22-2 in Boulder, but this win mirrored most of the others – it was no piece of holiday fruitcake.
“Wyoming is always really tough . . . it’s always a great game,” said CU coach Linda Lappe. “It was a great way to go into the holiday break. We’re excited to come out of that one with a win.”
The Buffs and Swan saved most of their excitement and energy for the game’s final 10 minutes. After Reese scored CU’s first 10 points and kept the home team close at intermission – the Cowgirls led 42-41 – Swan helped reenergize the Buffs when they needed it most.
Trailing by eight points twice in the last 14:30, the Buffs launched a 10-1 run that took them from a 58-50 deficit to a 60-59 lead with 5:52 left. A couple of hustle plays and back-to-back baskets by senior Jasmine Sborov and a short banker by Alina Hartmann gave CU its first lead since 41-40.
Hartmann’s basket came off an acrobatic falling-out-of-bounds assist from Swan, who also had four rebounds, one block and two steals. Up 60-59, the Buffs built a 69-65 lead as Swan scored the next seven points. Then she put a ribbon on the win with three of four free throws in the final 13 seconds.
Swan, said Lappe, could have sulked over being out of the starting lineup for the first time this season: “But she stayed engaged on the bench and didn’t get down . . . it’s a credit to her. Lappe added about the excitable Swan, “It doesn’t take much for Jamee to get excited (and) that’s what we love about her.”
Said Swan, who played only two minutes in the first half and didn’t take a shot: “I’ve always been told that it doesn’t matter who starts the game – just who finishes and who has the confidence to be in when big minutes are needed. I don’t really think it affected me.”
But Lappe’s lineup change involved more than Swan. Guard Lexy Kresl did not suit up due to an upper leg injury and was held out for purposes of rest. Lappe said Kresl is day-to-day and that the senior’s absence Sunday caused a “huge change” at the point guard position. Kresl, who in 33 minutes averages 10.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists, was replaced by freshman Brecca Thomas.
Lappe said Thomas did a “nice job” of directing the offense in the first half. “Ultimately, I think it will help us in the long run . . . help us get better.”
In addition to Swan’s 16 points and Reese’s 15, CU got double-figure production from Sborov (11) and Haley Smith (10). Guard Marquelle Dent, one of four Coloradans in Wyoming’s starting lineup, led the Cowgirls (5-5) with 24 points. Kayla Woodward added 22, hitting five of her seven 3-point attempts, and Kaitlyn Mileto contributed 11 points.
Both Reese, who finished 7-of-13 from the field, and Swan said the energy created by CU’s bench factored significantly in the second-half comeback. “As a team on the court we feed off the energy given to us from our bench,” Swan said. “I thought that energy was phenomenal.”
Reese pointed specifically to Swan as being high-voltage: “When (she) comes in and takes that charge and makes that face, screaming, I get excited and almost have a heart attack . . . our energy on the bench was great all game and that really helped on the floor.”
The Buffs trailed 42-41 at halftime after Dent hit a layup and left CU with a 6-second final possession. The Buffs couldn’t convert and had to be satisfied with their one-point deficit.
Neither team led by more than four points in the opening half, with CU managing a 12-8 lead on two of three free throws by Thomas with 13:52 before intermission. Reese finished the first half with a team-best 13 points, hitting six of nine from the field as CU shot a season-high 57.7 percent (15-for-26).
Opening the second half with a 13-6 run, Wyoming extended its lead to a game-high eight points, going ahead 55-47 on a put-back by Jordan Sibrel with just over 13 minutes remaining.
At the half’s mid-way point, CU still trailed by eight and found itself trading baskets – not a good way to catch up – until Reese and Swan hit back-to-back jump shots to cut Wyoming’s lead to 59-54.
The Buffs were reenergized and rolling. Back-to-back jump shots by Sborov and Hartman’s short banker completed CU’s 10-1 run. A one-point lead was exchanged until Swan scored on a smooth pivot move to send the Buffs up 64-62, then collected a defensive rebound at the other end, then connected on two free throws to put CU ahead 66-62 with 2:55 left.
A Woodward trey brought the Cowgirls to within 66-65, but Swan’s conventional three-point play with 1:40 remaining pushed the Buffs up 69-65. After Dent cut it to 69-67, Sborov hit a pair of free throws to restore CU’s four-point advantage (71-67).
Smith and Sborov hit one free throw each in the final minute but Dent answered with field goals each time and brought Wyoming to within 73-71 with 30.5 seconds to play – and the Cowgirls had the ball.
Coming out of a time out, Dent missed a chance to tie and Swan was fouled after snaring the rebound. She made three of four free throws in the final 13 seconds and the Buffs finally could relax.
“I really liked our intensity down the stretch,” Lappe said. “I thought one of our players, Bri Watts, said it best: ‘We went from the Grinch without any heart to a team with a whole lot of heart.’”
The Buffs’ holiday assignment: Hold onto that feeling. They are off until Tuesday, Dec. 30 when they play host to Long Beach State in their final non-conference game. They open Pac-12 Conference play on Jan. 3 at No. 7 Stanford.