2018 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Tournament: Colorado charges past Utah, 66-56
In the huddle between the first and second quarters, Colorado head coach JR Payne could be heard encouraging her squad to be more aggressive to the basket. That ended up being the winning key for the Buffs Thursday at KeyArena in Seattle, where No. 9 seed Colorado cruised past No. 8 seed Utah 66-56 in the first round of the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament.
And aggressive they were, scoring 25 points off turnovers and notching 12 steals compared to Utah’s two.
“Our toughness, our effort, our grit was apparent from start to finish,” Payne said in the postgame press conference.
Kennedy Leonard led Colorado in scoring with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Three other Buffs reached double digits: Annika Jank (12 points), Quinessa Caylao-Do (11) and Zoe Correal (10). Utah senior Tanaeya BoClair paced the Utes with 12 points.
This year’s regular-season series between Utah and Colorado was a set of high-energy, high-scoring contests that went up to the last minute. It looked like that would be the case for their third matchup with a back-and-forth first quarter, which Utah controlled, though Colorado never sank further than five points behind.
The Buffs’ tune changed in the second quarter, becoming the aggressor as they turned on a 12-0 run that spanned the tail end of the first period and nearly three minutes into the second. Colorado gained that momentum with three three-pointers — two of them by Jank — and three points by Leonard.
“Just when it seemed like we were poised to make a run, they answered,” Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said after the game. “That’s a credit to them. Offensively we were just out of sorts.”
CU stayed on top through the third quarter, wrapping up the period with a 46-35 lead, the 11-point margin being the largest of the game at that point. The Buffs' biggest lead came in the latter half of the fourth quarter, a 21-point gap.
Utah felt the absence of Megan Huff, particularly on offense. The squad’s leading scorer attempted to play after sitting out the last two games of the regular season due to a right foot injury but contributed only nine points and four rebounds.
As the Utes await their postseason fate, they have a milestone to celebrate: Tanaeya BoClair joined the 1,000-point club off a first-quarter jumper, making her the 28th Ute to reach the mark.
— Utah WBasketball (@UTAHWBB) March 1, 2018
Up next for Colorado is the giant of the 2018 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament, the top-seeded Oregon Ducks. They face off Friday at 11:30 a.m. PT/12:30 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Network.
“It’s gonna be fun,” Leonard said when asked about Oregon in the post-game press conference. “Obviously they’re the number-one seed and we’re the nine-seed, so there’s no pressure on us. They gotta stop us.”