Brooks: Buffs Falter In Final Minute, Lose 68-66
BOULDER – Colorado stayed with No. 14 Arizona State for the better part of 40 minutes Sunday at the Coors Events Center. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, the final half minute was no time to come undone.
Getting a pair of free throws from Adrienne Thomas with 4.4 seconds to play, the Sun Devils edged the Buffs 68-66. CU (12-7, 2-6) had hoped to sweep the Pac-12 Conference’s desert entries after a 68-47 win against Arizona on Friday night that broke a four-game Buffs losing streak.
But it wasn’t to be against the opportunistic Sun Devils (17-3, 6-2).
With the score tied at 66-66, CU coach Linda Lappe called timeout with 21 seconds to play to set her final strategy. It didn’t go as planned; Brittany Wilson lost her dribble, ASU got the loose ball and Thomas was fouled with 4.4 seconds to play.
After Thomas hit both free throws, Wilson lost the ball coming up court, recovered, but could manage only a three-quarter court heave that only added to CU’s afternoon of frustration.
Of CU’s 12 turnovers, none were more costly than the final two. Said Wilson of the miscue coming out of the timeout: “I felt I got tripped, it was a no call. . . nothing much more to say.”
Added Lappe: “Just about everything bad that could have happened did at the end of the game . . . we have to learn how to finish. We’ve got to get a shot off, no matter what happens. (The officials) were calling fouls (23 on each team); we can’t make excuses.”
Lappe declined comment on Wilson’s alleged un-called trip: “I’m not going to comment on that . . . bottom line, we have to make plays.”
Jen Reese, who matched her career high with 22 points for a second straight game, said she believed the Buffs were focused coming of their timeout when the score was tied at 66. “But we should have gotten a shot up,” she added. “We didn’t finish . . . they were fouled and hit their free throws.”
Aiding Reese in the scoring column were Brittany and Ashley Wilson with 12 points each and Jamee Swan with 10. Deja Mann scored a team-high 17 points and was one of three Sun Devils in double figures, and ASU got 25 points from its bench.
CU outrebounded ASU 42-35 and hit 20-of-23 free throws – including 11-of-11 in the first half. Lappe said those two numbers were among positives to be taken away from the loss, the others being a “toughness level” that is becoming what she wants, overall execution in the final 8 minutes, and her team’s turnover total (10) before the final minute.
“We’re obviously disappointed,” Lappe said. “ASU is tough, well-coached. They find ways to win games this year; they make plays down the stretch. Give them credit, they’ve done this to a lot of teams. Tonight we were the victim.”
ASU led by 10 points in the first half before CU regained its shooting touch and made the afternoon competitive in the second half. The Buffs hit six of their first eight shots, took a 12-9 lead – their largest of the half – then went mountain stream cold.
From the 15:05 mark until 7:23 before intermission, they dropped from 75 percent shooting to 35 percent – going one for 12 and watching the Sun Devils launch a 12-0 run. That surge enabled ASU to take a double-digit lead – 24-14 –and appear to be in control.
But CU wasn’t ready to roll. If their shooting touches from the field occasionally went icy, it was a different story at the free throw line. For only the second time this season, the Buffs were perfect at the foul line, hitting all of 11 of their attempts – which kept them in the game. By halftime their field goal percentage was a humbling 30.3 (10-of-33), while the Sun Devils checked in at 42.9 percent (12-of-28). CU finished the afternoon shooting 38.3 percent from the field, ASU 41.5.
Free throw perfection in the first half’s final 5 minutes – all of CU’s fouls shots came in that span – kept the Buffs within three points (34-31) at intermission. Yet to catch and pass ASU in the second half, CU couldn’t count on doing it with free throws – their shooting had to improve, and the opening 4 minutes of the second half showed signs of that happening.
After Mann scored consecutive baskets to open the scoring and push ASU ahead 38-31, Reese – her nine field goals were a career high – hit a put-back to open a 6-0 run that pulled the Buffs to within 38-37. It was the closest CU had been since 13-12.
The Buffs got their first lead since 12-11 on a layup by Roberson that sent them up 39-38 with 15:16 remaining. CU matched its largest lead to that point – three points at 43-40 – on back-to-back baskets by Reese.
But Promise Amukamara matched Reese’s two buckets, giving ASU a 44-43 advantage and promising a back-and-forth final 10 minutes – if the Buffs didn’t encounter another Ice Age. They didn’t, and even a five-point ASU lead (52-47) didn’t deter them.
The Buffs lost their perfection from the foul line when Ashley Wilson finally missed the first of two with 8:58 to play. But “A-Wil” hit the second attempt, followed with two more on the next possession and tied the score at 52-52.
Neither team led by more than two points over the final 8 minutes, with CU taking a two-point advantage (66-64) on a three-point play by Ashley Wilson with 2:51 left.
With the Buffs leading 66-65, Reese missed a foul line jumper with 45 seconds left and ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne called a time out with 41.9 seconds to play. Fouled by Brittany Wilson on a loose ball battle, Kelsey Moos hit one of two free throws to tie the score at 66-66 at the 28.5-second mark.
Reese controlled the rebound on Moos’ miss and it was CU’s turn for a timeout to set its final strategy in the last 21.1 seconds. If both of the Buffs’ final possessions went bust, the Sun Devils have been there and conquered that.
“A majority of our games have come down to one possession,” Turner Thorne said. “We have a lot of experience in these situations. This team has a lot of confidence, and because of that, we’ve been able to out on top of every single one of these close games.”
The Buffs travel to Utah on Wednesday night (7 p.m.) before returning to the CEC to face the Utes again on Sunday, Feb. 2 (noon).
WAHL HONORED: CU's first women's athletic director, Jane Wahl, received the inaugural Jane Wahl Legacy Award Sunday, at both a pregame reunion luncheon with dozens of former players in attendance and again at halftime. The award will be presented annually to a member of the women's basketball community who through their achievements brings honor and recognition to the program.
Wahl accepted the award from Ceal Barry, CU's associate athletic director for student services and former women's basketball coach. Barry noted that the first decade of women's athletics set the table for future success, and in the case of basketball, began several traditions, including making the Coors Events Center the tough place it has become for opponents to play.
"I view this like a relay race," Wahl said. "I worked the first leg and then handed the baton to others who went on to bring women's athletics at CU to where it is today. The work I did at CU was some of the most meaningful of my life. To help create opportunities for women to participate in varsity athletics that didn't exist before 1974. It was rewarding to do work that empowered women, life-changing work that served them well for the rest of their lives."