Buffs Battle, But Cardinal Prevails In Pac-12 Win
BOULDER – The Colorado Buffaloes battled gallantly on Sunday afternoon to find the edge their coach said they lacked, but making it pay off against Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike and the No. 4 Cardinal was too big a task.
No. 17 CU cut a 19-point second-half deficit to seven in the final minute before finally succumbing 87-77 at the Coors Events Center. The Buffs (11-4, 1-3) dropped to 0-3 against ranked opponents this season and 7-2 at the CEC.
On Friday night, the Buffs were edged 57-55 by No. 19 California, and CU coach Linda Lappe challenged her team to play with more toughness. The Buffs did that on Sunday, but they struggled to find an answer for the Cardinal’s Ogwumike, who scored 34 points and collected 16 rebounds. The Stanford All-American scored 20 of her total in the first half, when the Cardinal (15-1, 4-0) rolled to a 55-38 lead.
Lappe called Ogwumike “one of the best players in the nation,” and Ogwumike's performance underscored that. Ogwumike's 34 points were the most by a CU opponent since Iowa State’s Lindsey Wilson scored 41 – the record against the Buffs – on Feb. 26, 2003.
Despite Ogwumike’s dominance, CU showed second-half resiliency, a response Lappe liked. “I definitely liked the way we fought back,” she said. “Any time you lose a tough one like we lost on Friday, you can go in either one of two directions; you can feel sorry for yourself or you can show a lot of courage, character and resiliency, and I really liked seeing our fight and our toughness tonight.
“I thought we fixed a lot of things that we talked about during film on Saturday, but Stanford’s good. You have to give them a lot of credit. It’s fair to say that they are at least the second best team in the nation . . . I felt like we gave it our best shot, put our best foot forward. We didn’t back down and you have to like that from our team.”
Veteran Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said she “wasn’t impressed” by her team’s overall effort: “I just think we looked a little tired. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. We have a great player in Chiney, and she really battled in there tonight.”
VanDerveer also credited CU, calling the Buffs “a top 20 team. They battled. Linda Lappe does a great job with her team. They are a very, very well coached team and she showed it tonight.”
Ogwumike got first-half help from freshman Karlie Samuelson, who scored 17 of her career-high 19 points in the opening half. Samuelson, who arrived in Boulder with a 3.8 point average, hitting five of her eight first-half 3-point attempts and both of her free throw tries.
Hitting four of its first five 3-point attempts, Stanford finished 10-of-21 from behind the arc and hit 21 of its 24 free throw attempts. CU had allowed just four 3-pointers in 29 attempts in its first three Pac-12 games and led the conference in 3-point defense (13.8 percent).
CU forward Arielle Roberson contended some of Samuelson’s long-range accuracy came from the Buffs’ “mental lapses” and wasn’t that surprising. “We knew she was a shooter, but we continued to let her get her shots off, so nothing is shocking about that because Stanford has great shooters,” Roberson said. “We weren’t in the correct matchup or helping off too much or not finding her in transitions. Miscommunications.”
CU was without junior guard Jasmine Sborov, who was on crutches after being diagnosed with a broken bone in her foot.
The Buffs got a career-best performance from sophomore forward Jamee Swan, who had team highs in points (20) and rebounds (13). Also scoring in double figures were Roberson (19), Brittany Wilson (15) and Lexy Kresl (10).
“I feel like I played pretty well,” Swan said. “I don’t think I could have done it without having my teammates helping me get to places I needed to get to and getting me the ball and all that kind of stuff. But it’s another game. It was a great game.”
Lappe called Swan’s performance “fantastic. We knew that we were going to need Jamee in games like this and she was going at a good pace today. She was aggressive; she’s a tough rebounder and physical player and at times, she gave Stanford a lot of problems.
“I liked her decision-making with the ball, I liked the way that she scored, and she played pretty good defense as well. It was tough to take her off the floor because we weren’t getting the rebounds we needed to get when she was not in there. I’m really proud of her stepping up and playing the best game she’s played all year.”
The Cardinal held a 19-point lead on two occasions early in the second half, but the Buffs refused to roll. They cut the deficit to 82-73 on a 3-pointer by Lauren Huggins, then to 82-75 on two free throws by Wilson with 1:02 to play.
But that was as close they got to the Cardinal, now 6-0 against the Buffs since CU joined the Pac-12 in 2011 and 11-4 all-time.
The Buffs stayed with the visitors for the game’s first 2:47, but after a 6-6 tie, Stanford began pulling away behind the 3-point shooting of Samuelson. After Ogwumike broke the tie with a trey, senior guard Sara James hit a three, giving the Cardinal a 12-6 lead.
And Stanford was off and bombing.
Less than 2 minutes later, Samuelson drained threes on consecutive possessions, pushing the Cardinal ahead 20-11 with 14:32 left before intermission. Stanford led by as many as 18 (46-28) before ending the half on – what else? – a Samuelson trey at the buzzer that gave her team a commanding 55-38 advantage.
Stanford, which normally shoots 47.9 percent from long range, was 8-of-15 (53 percent) from behind the arc, accounting for most of the damage as CU gave up its highest first-half total of the season and the most since 2006.
The Buffs entered the game allowing only 59 points a game and 57 in Pac-12 play. If CU was to have a chance at catching up, its defense would have to tighten dramatically.
An early second-half basket by Ogwumike gave the Cardinal its biggest lead – 59-40 – before the Buffs finally ratcheted up their ‘D.’ It helped when Ogwumike went to the bench briefly with three fouls at the 15-minute mark, and CU took advantage.
A 7-0 run on back-to-back baskets from Brittany Wilson and a three-point play by Swan pulled the Buffs to within 11 points (63-52) with 13:03 left. Stanford answered with an 8-0 run – six of the points by Ogwumike – and went back in front by 19 (71-52) with just under 9 minutes to play.
But CU wasn’t done. Runs of 5-0 and 6-0 pulled the Buffs back to within seven points before the Cardinal finally closed it out.
The Buffs play at Washington State on Friday (8 p.m. MST) and Washington on Sunday (5 p.m. MST)