Brooks: Buffs’ 21 Turnovers Give Trojans A Road Rest

BOULDER – If the Colorado women’s basketball team was counting on the rigors of the road rattling Southern California, it didn’t happen. Leaving LA for the first time in a month – or in eight games – the Trojans made themselves at home Friday night in the Coors Events Center, but with lots of unwarranted hospitality from the Buffaloes.

Getting 22 points from 21 CU turnovers, USC rolled to an 81-61 Pac-12 Conference win.

The Buffs committed 11 of their turnovers in the first half, digging themselves an early hole with a very narrow escape route. CU (7-7, 0-3) never found it, losing its fourth consecutive game and its sixth of the past seven. The Buffs trailed by as many as 19 points late in the first half and were never able to pull closer than 9 points in the second half.

Entering Friday night, the Trojans (10-5, 2-2) had lost three of their past four games, including a split with the Oregon schools in the Pac-12’s opening weekend.

“I thought we did some really good things,” CU coach Linda Lappe said, “but we didn’t start off well (and) it didn’t seem like we could ever catch up . . . but give USC credit; they came in here with a lot of confidence and played hard.”

Lappe said her team, which faces UCLA on Sunday at the CEC (2 p.m., Pac-12 Network), “just has to regroup and keep getting better, come to work every day . . . I feel like we have gotten better but if you look at one stat, it’s the turnovers.

“We have to tighten up defensively, but offensively if we take care of the ball (Friday night) it’s a totally different game at halftime.”

The Buffs trailed 40-27 at intermission, but it took a 6-0 run to close the half to get them that close. And that run could have been 8-0 had Jamee Swan and Jasmine Sborov converted free throws for three-point plays.

But the Buffs couldn’t complain; less than a minute earlier they trailed 40-21 with that 19-point deficit marking their largest at home this season. It surpassed the 14-point deficit they faced against Colorado State in the Omni Hotels Classic.

The Buffs rallied to win that one 87-81 in double overtime, but to duplicate that – OT or not – against the Trojans would be difficult.

For starters, CU’s turnovers would have to decrease. Of the Buffs’ 11 first-half turnovers, four came in the first 4:03. The Trojans got 14 first-half points off of the home team’s errors, then eight more in the second as a result of the Buffs’ 10 turnovers. The 11 first-half errors were largely responsible for CU failing to score on consecutive possessions until the 6-0 run to close the half.

Meanwhile, CU got only eight points from USC’s eight miscues in 40 minutes.

Guard Lexy Kresl said the Buffs can combat their turnover epidemic by “having confidence, handling the ball and handling the pressure . . . we just have to attack; when you’re not aggressive you make more mistakes.”

Added Lappe: “It’s not that we’re bad ball handlers, it’s just making the right reads and the right passes.”

CU shot 41.9 percent (13-for-31) from the field in the first 20 minutes and the Trojans weren’t astoundingly better, hitting 43.2 percent (16-of-37). It merely underscored CU’s need to take better care of the ball in the second half; it happened for a while but not consistently enough for the Buffs to catch up.

USC finished the night shooting 42.9 percent (27-of-63) while CU checked out at 44.3 percent (27-of-61). And that takes the Buffs back to the turnovers that ultimately cost them the game.

Three Buffs scored in double figures, topped by Swan’s 14 points. Jen Reese added 13 and Sborov 10. The Trojans got 20 points each from Alexyz Vaioletama and McKenzie Calvert, and 17 from Brianna Barrett.

USC’s aggressiveness in getting to the basket was obvious. The Trojans attempted 31 free throws, making 23, while the Buffs went 8-for-11 from the foul line. “Yeah,” said Lappe, “I think we can be more aggressive in getting to the rim.”

Opening the second half with a conventional three-point play from Swan, the Buffs trimmed the Trojans’ lead to 10 (40-30).  But it took nearly 8 minutes before they finally cut USC’s lead to single digits. Lauren Huggins hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to pull CU to within nine points (56-47) with 12:17 to play.

But that was as close as the Buffs could get. The Trojans responded with five quick points, rebuilt a 14-point lead (61-47) and led by as many as 20 in the final minute.

Contact: BG.Brooks@Colorado.EDU

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