Brooks: Buffs Crush Lobos, Await Date With Stanford
BOULDER - Non-conference play is in the rearview mirror, perennial power Stanford is in the headlights. The Colorado women's basketball team contends it is primed and pumped to open work next week in the Pac-12 Conference, and CU sophomore guard Lexy Kresl says the Pac-12 had best be primed and pumped for the Buffaloes.
On Saturday, Kresl was that and more - the more being looser, more confident on offense and devilish on defense. She tied a career-high with 20 points, hitting all five of her three-point attempts and tying a school record as No. 23 CU rolled past New Mexico 84-39 at the Coors Events Center.
The victory pushed the Buffs to 11-0 in non-conference play for the second consecutive season and gave third-year coach Linda Lappe her 100th career win. Lappe is 100-66 overall and 50-30 at CU.
The Buffs open Pac-12 play on Friday at 8 p.m. by hosting the Cardinal, which entered Saturday ranked No. 1. But Stanford likely won't come to Boulder as the women's game's top-ranked team. No. 2 Connecticut won convincingly (61-35) Saturday at Stanford, snapping the Cardinal's 82-game home winning streak.
Never mind the possible implications for the Buffs; Lappe says her team is "as prepared as we can be" to begin conference play. "I can't think of many things we're not prepared for . . . we haven't faced a ton adversity, but we have veteran players who have. We've been tested at home, on the road. We feel confident in any venue. But it's all about us and what we do, executing what we do . . . if we play with the intensity and composure we did tonight then I feel confident we're ready for the conference season."
UNM coach Yvonne Sanchez, who saw her team drop to 8-5, said CU "took everything away from us and I credit them immensely. They're well-coached and they had a great game plan. We didn't execute well, but a lot of that has to do with what (CU) did to us."
And that damage was considerable. With Kresl primarily holding Lobos leading scorer Caroline Dublin (12.9 ppg) to five first-half points (seven total), the Buffs raced to a 39-21 halftime lead and never looked back.
CU's pace or intensity didn't slow in the second 20 minutes either. The Buffs opened the last half with a 17-2 run - Kresl scored eight in that spurt - and pushed ahead 56-23. Keeping the pedal firmly down, CU led by as many as 47 in the final minute, which Lappe really liked.
"I never felt like our players knew what the score was," she said. "We were playing as hard with six minutes left as they were with 16 left in the first half . . . that shows a team that's trying to get better."
It sounded odd when she said it, but Kresl said her marksmanship - actually her overall performance - improved because she "kind of stopped caring a little bit. Once I put aside my worries, my shot came to me. I just decided to play and have some fun."
Of course, it was at the Lobos' expense.
Sanchez called Kresl "a shooter. She's been a shooter since high school, she's a shooter (at CU). She had a great game and shooters do that. Sometimes they just feel it . . . she hit off ball screens, she hit off our zone defense. They found her in their offense and she did a tremendous job."
But other Buffs did, too. Also in double figures were redshirt freshman Arielle Roberson (18), senior Chucky Jeffery (11) and sophomore Jen Reese (10). Jeffery flirted with the third triple-double of her career. In 27 minutes she finished with eight assists and eight rebounds to go with her 11 points.
The Buffs shot 50.8 percent for the game (32-of-63) and held the Lobos to 30.2 percent (16-of-53). CU outrebounded the visitors 42-31, owned a 40-16 advantage in the paint and converted 23 UNM turnovers into 28 points. The Buffs committed 13 turnovers, but the Lobos got only nine points from those errors. And off-setting CU's miscues were a season-high 18 steals.
Lappe said her team's defensive intensity "really helped us throughout the game and helped us build a good halftime lead. In the second half, our depth really showed in extending the lead. Our starters were fresh, our bench was fresh. We got better as we subbed a little bit and we were able to pull away big in the second half."
Kresl, who had totaled 20 points in her previous three games, had 12 at halftime Saturday for a season high. She followed with eight in the Buffs' early second-half run, missing only one of her eight attempts from the field and hitting her only free throw attempt.
"I don't exactly feel like my role this year is to be the leading scorer," she said. "I am more than happy to see my other teammates score and I love passing them the ball. (Saturday) I think I just felt comfortable with my shot. It felt more natural and in rhythm."
Lappe said Kresl has put in extra time working on her shot - and it showed: "With Lexy it's all about the consistency of her shot and making sure she shoots it the same way every single time. We've been able to show her some film of her good shots, her bad shots, her shot selection . . . she took all great shots (Saturday). She moved the ball well on the offensive side and didn't force anything, which was great to see."
Roberson called participating in Lappe's 100th win "definitely positive for us. We get to say we helped her get there. It was a great landmark for all of us . . . I was just proud to see her get recognized."
Earning her 100th career 'W' was "nice," said Lappe. "It's not something you focus on as a coach; you don't ever say, 'I can't wait until I get to 100 wins.'"
Nonetheless, she added, reaching 100 is a tribute to the players, assistant coaches and staff members who have had hands in the milestone. "I obviously hope there are a lot more hundreds after this one, but it is good and I'm happy that our team can experience success . . . we're going in the right direction, I think."
That direction now points to the Pac-12. Two days after Stanford's visit (Sunday, Jan. 6), No. 8 California visits the Events Center. Two games in three days against the conference's top two teams. Said Kresl of being ready to begin Pac-12 play: "They better be ready . . . that's all I can say."
NOTABLE: CU junior guard Ashley Wilson was back in the lineup after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and missing six games. However, her twin sister, Brittany, sat out the second half after apparently getting hit in the head. Lappe called Brittany's sitting out precautionary and expects her to available for Stanford. Brittany scored six first-half points, including a three-pointer to open the game. Also, sophomore guard Jasmine Sborov returned after missing two games with a minor heart condition.