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Trojans, Cold Second Half Doom Buffs In WNIT

Mar 27, 2011

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BOULDER - Colorado saw its payback plan for Southern California (and its 2010-11 basketball season) put on ice Sunday afternoon at the Coors Events Center.

CU went for almost 10 1/2 minutes between field goals to start the second half, enabling the Trojans to overcome a five-point deficit and eliminate the Buffaloes 87-70 in the WNIT quarterfinals.

The Trojans, who defeated the Buffs 68-54 in December in the Women of Troy Tournament and lead the series 4-2 against their future Pac-12 Conference partner, advance to the WNIT semifinals against Illinois State.

After having won six of its previous eight games, CU ended its season at 18-16 under first-year coach Linda Lappe.

"Well obviously this one kind of hurts," Lappe said. "I'm so proud of our team and what we were able to accomplish this season. It goes far beyond getting to the WNIT and getting 18 wins, and winning three games in the WNIT. It goes way further than just that. It's a credit to our players for believing and responding and continuing to fight and be tough. We started off the season talking about Colorado Pride and what that meant to be a Colorado player. These guys really understand that now and they understand what that means. I'm proud of our seniors and I'm proud of our entire team for everything that we've been able to do; we just didn't have quite enough (Sunday)."

Trailing by 14 points after their uncharacteristic cold spell, the Buffs rallied behind career-leading scorer Brittany Spears to cut the Trojans' lead to 69-62 in the final 3:47.

But that was as close as they would get.

Spears, playing her final game at the Events Center, tied her career-high with 36 points. She finished her CU career with a school-record 2,185 points, and with 652 points this season she moved into second place in seasonal scoring at CU. Spears entered the afternoon having averaged 23.5 points in the past eight games.

The Buffs had only one other player in double figures - sophomore Chucky Jeffery with 13.

USC's Ashley Corral, a 5-foot-9 junior guard and the school's career-leading three-point shooter, missed only one of her eight three-point attempts and finished with a career-best 32 points. Three of her teammates reached double figures - Jacki Gemelos with 20, and Cassie Harberts and Kari LaPlante with 10 each.

The Trojans (23-12) bashed the Buffs on the boards, out-rebounding them 46-26, and hit 10 of their 13 three-point attempts while CU was 6-for-26 from behind the arc. USC's 87 points was a season high.

"It seemed like every time we started to make a run and needed a stop, we got a stop and then gave them an offensive rebound," Lappe said. "We're a very good rebounding team so for us to get out-rebounded by 20. That hurts and we couldn't overcome that."

The Buffs held the advantage for most of the first half - but never by more than four points. They took the lead for the first time (6-4) on a Brittany Wilson jump shot with 16:51 before intermission, then increased it to 9-5 on Wilson's three-pointer on the next possession.

USC never allowed CU to pull away, reclaiming a one-point advantage (14-13) 4 minutes later. The Trojans' biggest first-half lead was two points on five occasions, but they trailed by two (36-34) at halftime.

USC held a seven-rebound advantage (19-12) in the first 20 minutes and hit the same amount of three-pointers (four) as CU - but in only half as many tries (six). The Buffs committed only three first-half turnovers (nine for the game), while forcing the Trojans into eight (12 total). Both teams ended the half shooting 13-of-28 from the field (46.4 percent), but CU's 10-for-28 shooting in the second half dropped its percentage to 41.1 for the afternoon (23-of-56).

Spears' 16 points led all first-half scorers, while Corral, hitting all four of her field goals (including three treys), had 11 for USC. She was just warming up, while the Buffs were headed for the ice box.

Spears started the second half with a three-pointer, giving CU its largest lead of the afternoon, 39-34. But USC responded with an 8-0 run - Corral capped it with another three - and went ahead 42-39 with 16:47 remaining.

And the Trojans, who outscored the Buffs 53-34 in the second half, didn't stop there.

With Spears' trey the only CU field goal in the second half's first 10:11, USC was able to extend its run to 19-8 and went comfortably ahead 53-44 with 11:53 to play. The Buffs finally got their second field goal of the half with 9:49 left on another Spears trey, but by then the Trojans had surged ahead 60-46.

CU pulled to within seven points (69-62) with 3:47 to play on three free throws by Spears, but the threat - and the Buffs' season - ended there.

"We're just ready for next year," Jeffery said. "It does hurt to (the seniors) go; we had a great team. Our mentality is different; I know mine is from last year. It even hurts the younger players on our team, but I think we're just excited to see what comes next with the younger ones coming in and we're going to be anxious to see what comes next."

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU