Colorado Storms Into Omni Championship Game
BOULDER - Colorado had its strongest defensive effort of the season, limiting Valparaiso to 32 points in a 60-32 Buffaloes win in the first round of the 25th Annual Omni Hotels Classic Friday evening at the Coors Events Center.
Colorado at 4-0 and matching its best start since 2000-01, will face Wisconsin in Saturday's championship game at 7:30 p.m. Wisconsin (2-4) held off Montana State 71-61 in Friday's first game. Valparaiso (0-4) will play MSU (3-2) in the consolation game at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
"I thought it was a good win," CU head coach Linda Lappe said. "Our defense was outstanding."
Chucky Jeffery led the Buffaloes with another complete stat line. The junior guard had 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting, 9 rebounds, five assists, one block and one steal.
The Buffaloes had a good start for the fourth straight game to open the season, pushing out to an early 17-8 lead. Valparaiso's Ashley Varner kept the Crusaders close early with a pair of 3-pointers. Shaquira Scott hit a jumper at 7:30 to pull Valparaiso to within six at 19-13.
From there the Buffaloes began to run away. Colorado ended the half on a 16-0 run. Jeffery scored the last nine of those points including a long 3-pointer at the first half buzzer to give CU a 35-13 lead at the break.
"We know that every time we come out we have to throw the first punch, we have to be aggressive, we have to play defense hard," Jeffery said. "That's just what we are taught, so we have to emulate that on the floor."
Lexy Kresl scored five straight to open the second half to give CU a 40-13 lead. Scott finally broke Valpo's 10:03 drought with a short jumper with 17:27 remaining. That began a 7-0 Valpo run as CU cooled off over the next three minutes. VU's Tabitha Gerardot converted a conventional 3-point play to bring the Crusaders to within 20 at 40-20 with 14:28 left.
Julie Seabrook ended the Crusader run with a short jumper in the paint. Soon after, Jeffery reentered the game and reenergized the Buffaloes.
CU answered Valpo's 7-0 run with one of its own. Jeffery ignited a fast break that ended in a layup by Jasmine Sborov, her first career points. Jeffery blocked a shot on the other end and the ensuing possession ended in an Ashley Wilson layup. Kresl then put CU up 49-23 with a long 3-pointer with 10 minutes remaining.
All active players contributed in the scoring column. Walk-on freshman guard Esther Lee scored her first five career points, including a late 3-pointer.
Ashley Wilson had a career high seven rebounds as the Buffaloes out rebounded the Crusaders 40-31. CU's defense held Valparaiso to just 26 percent shooting.
"Ashley is an extremely hard worker," Lappe said. "Offensive rebounding is all heart and effort. Every time a shot went up, Ashley was rushing the glass."
Varner led Valparaiso with 10 points and seven rebounds. Scott ended with nine points, adding a block and a steal to her line.
The 32 points given up were the sixth lowest in team history and the lowest since CU allowed 29 to Texas Southern on Dec. 14, 2007.
The Buffaloes 2000-01 team was the last to start a season 5-0, which the 2011-12 squad will attempt on Saturday.
CU improves to 39-10 in its own holiday season tournament. The Buffaloes will be out for their 15th Omni Classic title.