Brooks: Buffs’ Generosity Helps 49ers Take 62-56 Win
BOULDER – Tis the season, but the Colorado women’s basketball team might have taken this “better-to-give” thing a bit too far. CU gave, gave and gave some more Tuesday night, offering up 22 points off of 25 turnovers to Long Beach State, which was no doubt appreciative and left the Coors Events Center with a 62-56 win.
In spite of themselves and their ill-timed generosity, the Buffaloes (7-4) didn’t go quietly. They cut a 13-point second-half deficit to two before faltering in the final 5 minutes, allowing the 49ers (13-1) to win their 11th consecutive game.
“Give Long Beach State a lot of credit,” said CU coach Linda Lappe. “They’re 13-1 for a reason . . . they’re tough and they make plays when they need to.”
But, added Lappe, “We turned the ball over way too many times; there were too many possessions when we didn’t even get a shot.” She gave the 49ers credit for creating half of the turnovers, but said half fell on the Buffs. And, she noted, “There was no need for a large majority of them.”
Having Lexy Kresl at point guard probably would have helped keep the errors down, but the senior did not dress out for the second consecutive game due to the same upper leg injury that kept her out of the Buffs’ Dec. 21 home win over Wyoming.
“We missed Lexy but there’s no excuses,” Lappe said, adding that the Buffs backcourt adjusted against the Cowgirls but didn’t against the 49ers and their frequently changing defenses. “Getting her back full speed and on the court is important.”
The hope is that Kresl can return when CU opens Pac-12 Conference play on Saturday at No. 15 Stanford, then visits California on Monday.
CU got a double-double (15 points, 15 rebounds) from Jamee Swan and a career-high 14 points from Zoe Beard-Fails, who also contributed eight rebounds as the Buffs won the board battle 50-26 – their largest margin of the season.
“We knew that we would have an advantage in the post,” Lappe said. “And both Zoe and Jamee have been playing really well. I thought their energy, and toughness were two things that they brought. Zoe did a nice job in the beginning of the game getting us started, and Jamee did a nice job throughout the first half. I thought they were both consistent throughout the game and that was good to see.”
Beard-Fails scored the Buffs’ first 6 points and 8 of their first 15. While she hit four of her six shots during that span, her teammates could hit only 3 of 14 field goal attempts. Swan added six first-half points, doing the majority of her scoring after intermission.
Swan credited Long Beach for its “aggressive, physical play,” but added, “For us to battle back and not roll over was pretty phenomenal . . . I like to walk away thinking every game was winnable. We just have to learn to finish.”
Beard-Fails said every game “comes downs to hustle plays . . . we need to do the extra stuff, grinding it out. We need to work on staying with it and keeping up when we can instead of letting ourselves get down and having to work back up.”
With 12:09 left and trailing 45-32, the Buffs had committed 23 of their final turnover total. Making matters (and the score) worse, they had hit only 2 of 10 from the field.
But CU settled down. A technical foul on Devin Hudson resulted in two free throws from Jen Reese and launched a 14-3 run that pulled the Buffs to within 48-46 on another pair of Reese foul shots with 5:02 left. Reese hit seven of her eight free throw attempts, but she was only 1-of-8 from the field.
During its comeback, CU stymied Long Beach with a 3-2 zone, resulting in the 49ers shooting 2-for-12 from the field. But in the final 5 minutes, the Buffs could creep no closer than two points. The 49ers increased their lead to as many as nine points (61-52) and left Boulder with their 11th consecutive win.
Giving up 13 points off of 14 first-half turnovers, the Buffs sabotaged themselves time and again in trying to cope with the 49ers frequently changing defense. Still, CU trailed only by two points (28-26) at the break after leading for the first 11:30.
The Buffs led by as many as five points (9-4) early, but Long Beach caught up and passed the home team on a pair of 3-pointers by Hallie Meneses. Her first trey tied the score at 15-15 and her second gave the 49ers their first lead of the night at 18-15 with just over 8 minutes left before intermission.
From there, the Buffs managed only one more first-half lead, going up 19-18 on a put-back by Swan. The 49ers took advantage of six Buffs turnovers and a 3:48 CU drought to go up 24-19. The Buffs eventually fell behind 28-22, but closed the half with a 4-0 run and closed to within a basket at the half. The teams’ 54 combined first-half points was the second-lowest of the season in a CU contest, trailing the 51 in the Colorado State game.
Meanwhile, the 49ers’ leading scorer, Raven Benton (11.7 ppg), went to the bench with two personal fouls at the 10:01 mark and remained seated for the rest of the half. After starting the second half, Benton again went to the bench only 3 minutes in after apparently twisting a knee on a breakaway layup attempt that she missed.
Once again, the 49ers didn’t suffer greatly with Benton temporarily sidelined. They opened the second half with a 15-2 run and took the first of two 13-point lead – 43-30. CU finally got a layup from Swan to stop a 12-0 Long Beach surge, but by then the 49ers were in command and the Buffs were still struggling to protect the ball.
The Buffs finished shooting 37.5 percent from the field (21-of-56) and had 11 assists – a number that was completely overshadowed by their 25 turnovers. Asked what her team needs to sharpen up on with Pac-12 play looming, Lappe said, “Well, our turnovers, and our inability to get the ball where it needs to go.”
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