Buffs Rally In Second Half, But Can't Overtake Wildcats
BOULDER - There's a direct correlation here: As the number of games she believes slipped away begins to increase, so does Linda Lappe's frustration. Colorado's first-year women's basketball coach added another to that category Wednesday night at the Coors Events Center.
After an unfocused and forgettable first half, her Buffaloes rallied from a nine-point deficit early in the second half and even went ahead by four. Alas, they couldn't sustain their momentum over the final 12 minutes and lost 72-59 to Kansas State.
"We're disappointed," Lappe said afterwards. "We felt like this was a game we needed to have and could have had . . . but we let one slip."
Put it down as No. 3 in that dubious category, alongside Big 12 Conference losses to Kansas and Oklahoma State that drop the Buffs to a frustrating 2-4 in the league (11-8 overall).
"Our focus was not what it should have been in the first half," Lappe continued. "We didn't do what we talked about needing to do . . . it's the same story: The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. We have to quit doing that."
Call the Buffs crazy, but the results stayed the same.
Hoping to capitalize on momentum gained from a weekend win against Missouri, the Buffs knew what was at stake Wednesday: A win would have moved CU into a fifth-place tie with K-State (14-5, 4-2) in the conference standings.
But the Buffs opened as if they were clueless about that or much of anything else. In the first 20 minutes, they committed 13 of their 17 turnovers, resulting in 16 KSU points; had the ball swiped from them seven times; gave up nine second-chance points while scoring none themselves; were outscored 20-6 in the paint; and got three shots, three points, three turnovers and one rebound from their leading scorer, Brittany Spears.
"It was just me not being focused . . . it was nothing special they did (defensively)," claimed Spears, who was coming off a 26-point (season best), 13-rebound effort against Mizzou.
Spears tied Amy Mathern's school record for consecutive starts (112) Wednesday night, but the mark was darkened by the outcome. She committed only one more turnover and finished with 13 points, finally coming to life in the second half when the Buffs made their run to catch and temporarily pass the Wildcats.
In her second game back after missing a pair with a concussion, Chucky Jeffery was the only other CU player in double figures (19). Jeffery, who didn't start, called the loss "just frustrating. We scout these teams to a 'T.' We practice it and to get into a game and not have any focus, it kills everything we practice . . . it's frustrating because we know the teams we're losing to we should be beating. We're playing one half and not the other."
The Buffs trailed 30-23 at the half, and that seven-point deficit could have been much worse - all ugly things considered. Spears hit a straightaway trey for CU's first points of the game, but that was her output for the half.
The Buffs' only other lead of the half (8-5) came on a three-pointer by Meagan Malcolm-Peck, who - like Spears - went to the locker room with that total and, said Lappe, "was having kind of a tough night." Thereafter, the Wildcats launched a 12-0 run and shot ahead 17-8 before the Buffs partially regained their focus and cut their deficit to 26-23 on back-to-back baskets by Brittany Wilson.
But K-State got inside baskets from 6-foot-2 Jalana Childs (17 points, four rebounds) and 6-2 Branshea Brown (four points, 11 rebounds) to close the half and account for the Wildcats' seven-point lead at the break.
It took CU about 6 minutes into the second half to find the gear it needed to compete, but once that happened the Buffs began looking like the team that had disposed of Missouri by 10 points in its last game.
Spears snapped to with consecutive baskets - one a trey - and Britney Blythe followed with a pair of three-pointers to forge a 39-39 tie with 13:30 to play. Less than minute later, Jeffery hit a layup to send the Buffs ahead for the first time since 8-5.
Jeffery's pull-up jumper from the free throw line gave CU a four-point (43-39) lead, but the Buffs couldn't hold it. The Wildcats responded with a 13-2 run, going up 52-45 on a conventional three-point play by Taelor Karr with 7:33 remaining.
Could the Buffs pull themselves together again?
Short answer: No.
They closed to within four points (54-50) with 4:18 to play, but the Wildcats closed them out with an 8-0 run capped by a Brittany Chambers three-pointer - she finished with a game-high 20 - that gave K-State a 12-point advantage, its largest of the night to that point. CU got no closer than seven points before the final buzzer.
Jeffery went back to a "lack of focus" to explain her team's inability to respond to K-State's pair of decisive second-half runs after the Buffs rallied and pulled ahead: "We caught back up and that's when we were really focused. When we were down, we started playing defense and locking in on their shooters. Then we got up by four and lost focus again."
Veteran K-State Coach Deb Patterson called the win "huge for us. A year ago we won four games in the league, so to get a fourth win in the Big 12 on the road . . . it's a great win for our basketball team."
It was just the opposite for the Buffs, who have only four home games remaining among their final 10. They play Sunday at Texas.
"We only have ten games left," Lappe said. "I told our team that we have to come out with an extreme amount of focus every single night, every single game . . . we have to be willing to do that."