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Turnovers, Late Drought Doom Buffs In 73-68 Loss

Jan 25, 2015

PULLMAN, Wash. – Colorado women’s basketball played dominant defense for 40 minutes Sunday afternoon, but its offense, turnover-prone all game, failed in the final five. The Buffs blew a late lead for the second consecutive game and fell 73-68 to the Washington State Cougars.

“This is definitely a missed opportunity, two missed opportunities,” Colorado coach Linda Lappe said. “There are some definite positives but again we have to be sharper at the end of the game.”

Until the end, the Buffs (9-10, 2-6) had the game in hand. They played the best defense they had all year, holding the Cougars (13-6, 4-4) to just 25 percent shooting and 18 percent from deep. Colorado itself shot 50 percent, and got a career-high 28 points from Jamee Swan.

With those numbers, the Buffs losing seemed nigh-impossible. But a combination of turnovers and Washington State’s foul shooting gave the Cougars the edge. The Buffs turned the ball over a season-high 27 times and sent Washington State to the line for 39 foul shots, and there the Cougars shot 84 percent.

Nearly all of Washington State’s offense came from the line. The Cougars missed nearly as many shots (52) as Colorado attempted (56). The few field goals that they did hit were costly — eight of their 18 makes came off of their 20 offensive rebounds.

“We didn’t get any offensive rebounds in the last eight minutes of the game,” Lappe said. “So really, it comes down to rebounding and turnovers. It’s hard to win a game where you give a team 14 extra shots and they shoot 39 free throws.”

CU rolled early, and its defense was stifling. The Buffs packed the paint and forced the Cougars into jump shots, and their slump never broke. Washington State’s shooting numbers were ghastly — guards Lia Galdeira and Tia Presley were a combined 10-of-34, forwards Taylor Edmondson and Mariah Cooks 6-of-19. But Galdeira got 12 of her team-high 27 points at the free-throw line. Presley was perfect on her seven attempts from the stripe; Cooks was 9-of-10.

Cooks in particular hurt the Buffs late; she was a perfect 8-of-8 at the line in the second half.

“We were sagging off of her to apply more pressure on Presley and Galdeira,” Lappe said. “I thought we did a nice job of defending those two girls and if we can limit Cooks’ possessions and offensive rebounds, I think we could have walked away with the win.”

Swan almost did enough on her own to give the Buffs the victory. She paced CU all game, and no Cougar could guard her one-on-one. She unleashed her full arsenal of post moves — spins, hooks, drop steps — and chipped in seven rebounds. Lexy Kresl continued her strong shooting stretch with 15 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting, and her eight boards led the team. But she was also responsible for seven turnovers.

“We didn’t do a good job of making Lexy’s life easier,” Lappe said. “The wing and post players did a little too much hiding. I didn’t feel like there was anyone the on the floor tonight that really wanted the basketball and wanted to make plays.”

The Cougars scored 25 points off of those 27 turnovers; the damage would have been much worse if not for Colorado’s suffocating defense. But those were 27 possessions that the hot-shooting Buffs didn’t finish with a shot, 27 possessions without Swan finishing a post-up or Jen Reese launching from midrange.

Reese didn’t have her best game — her elbow jumper was hot early, but she finished with just nine points on 4-of-10 shooting. Still, Colorado led by as much as 12 in the second half and seemed poised at any minute to run away. The turnovers, though, gave the Cougars a lifeline they were more than happy to grab.

It all coalesced in one calamitous stretch with four minutes left. With Colorado nursing a 65-60 lead, Jasmine Sborov turned the ball over to Galdeira, then fouled her. It was Sborov’s fifth foul, so she was gone, and Lappe vigorously argued the call with the ref, who assessed the coach a technical foul. That gave Galdeira four free throws, and she nailed them all. Two more foul shots from Louise Brown gave the Cougars a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Washington State closed the game on a 16-3 run despite making just 1-of-7 field goals in that stretch. The Cougars finally started double-teaming Swan, and Colorado couldn’t find offense from anyone else.

The Buffs have a shot at revenge in Boulder on February 13.

“Being able to inspire the people around us that we see every day, that know our names and our families, I hope we can bring it,” Swan said. “I would just like to have another half and then I know we would get them.”

 Next up, though, is an even tougher test — the No. 13 Arizona State Sun Devils come to Boulder on Friday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Digital).