Colorado Falls in Nail-Biter to Denver
DENVER – The Colorado Buffaloes erased a 13-point second-half deficit inside Hamilton Gymnasium on Tuesday night, but the comeback effort fell just short. The Denver Pioneers held on in the final seconds for the 85-84 win, snapping Colorado's five-game winning streak against its in-state rival.
Senior Mya Hollingshed recorded her third double-double of the season, finishing with 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. Sophomore Jaylyn Sherrod led the Buffs in scoring with a career-high 22 points. Freshman Frida Formann had the best scoring night of her early career, finishing with 17 points and junior Lesila Finau rounded out the Buffs top-scorers with 11 points.
Denver's Meghan Boyd finished with a game-high 29 points, going 4-for-8 from 3-point range. Anna Jackson (14) and Uju Ezeude (13) also hit double figures.
DU's largest lead came at 58-45 with 3:13 to play in the third quarter. The Buffaloes were able to cut the deficit to 10 by the end of the quarter and used a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 70. CU totaled 27 points in the final 10 minutes and retook the lead at 81-80 with under two minutes to play. In the end, it came down to free-throws and the Pioneers went 4-for-4 in the final 30 seconds, while CU went 1-for-2 in the final seconds.
The loss marks CU's third in five days, falling to 2-3 on the season. The win for Denver evens its record at 2-2 on the year.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Early CU mishaps helped the Pioneers build some early confidence. The Buffs turned the ball over three times in the first two minutes, leading directly to DU's 5-0 run to start the night. CU chipped away from the free-throw line, getting its first four points from the stripe. The Buffs' first field goal didn't come until the 4:47 mark of the quarter when Finau hit an open 3-pointer, tying the game at seven. Colorado got back-to-back 3's from Formann and Sherrod, building a 15-11 lead. CU shot 4-for-7 from deep in the opening quarter, getting only two baskets from inside the arc. The Pioneers finished the quarter with a 10-5 run, to retake the lead 21-20 at the end of the frame.
The Buffs relied on early free-throws again before Kylee Blacksten hit an open 3 to put Colorado momentarily in front, 25-23. The Pioneers got a pair of quick 3's to jump back ahead, 29-25. Denver held a 31-27 lead for almost two and a half minutes as each team had trouble getting anything to fall. Zuzanna Kulinska drove hard to the basket getting the old-fashioned three-point play, breaking the drought and sliming the DU lead to 31-30. Hollingshed scored the final five points for the Buffs, getting a 35-33 lead. The Pioneers tied the game back up at 35 inside the final 30 seconds to remain even at the half.
CU's third-quarter struggles continued to be an issue on Tuesday. The Buffs started the quarter 1-of-6 and 0-for-3 from long distance, after making six 3's in the first half. The Pioneers took advantage and outscored CU 15-5 in the first four minutes, gaining its first double-digit lead of the night (50-40). Back-to-back 3's from Jackson and Cheyenne Forney sparked a 6-1 run and put DU up by the 13-point margin, 58-45.
The fourth quarter opened with a block by Peanut Tuitele that could have shifted momentum in the Buffs' favor. Instead, she was handed a quick technical foul, giving the ball back to the Pioneers. Denver hit one free-throw off the foul call but held possession resulting in a Claire Gritt layup to give Denver back its 13-point lead, 70-57. Formann did her best in the fourth quarter for the Buffs, scoring five consecutive points to get CU within eight, 80-62. Hollingshed then took over scoring the next six points, cutting the lead to 70-68 with 6:23 to play.
The run continued to 13-0 for the Buffaloes thanks to a pair of Formann free-throws, tying the game at 70 with 5:39 to play. DU responded with four quick points, going back up 74-70 with four minutes on the clock. That was the largest lead either team would have the rest of the night.
Sherrod gave CU its first lead, 81-80, since the 1:29 mark of the first quarter. DU tied the game back up at 81 with 1:26 to go. Hollingshed broke the tie, 83-81, with a layup inside 40 seconds. Boyd went 2-for-2 from the stripe after Sherrod fouled out with 30 seconds to go, tying it again at 83.
Colorado held the ball in hopes of having the final possession. The ball ended up in the hand of Kulinska with three seconds to go when she was fouled and sent to the line. She rattled the first attempt out and made the second, giving CU an 84-83 lead. Aubrey Knight got called for a foul before DU could inbound the ball, sending Rowan Hein to the free-throw line still with three seconds on the clock. She hit both to put Denver in front. Colorado was unable to get a final shot off before the clock expired.
KEY STAT: Denver shot 6-for-7 from long distance in the third quarter, scoring 18 of its 32 points from deep. Denver hit 11 3's on the night, finishing 47.8 percent. Colorado hit six three's in the first half, but only totaled two the rest of the game.
QUOTABLE: "Fatigue is mental, so it didn't matter if we were tired from the Oregons. It didn't matter if we were tired from having a week or two straight of practice. Fatigue is mental and I think we fought through it. Personally, for one of the first times I've seen this year we fought through fatigue and we're going out there and just try to rally together and fight adversity." -Jaylyn Sherrod
NOTES: First career starts for Formann and Blacksten…Tuesday was the first time two freshman have been in the starting lineup since the end of last season at USC (Kulinska, Whittaker)…It was the first time two true-freshman have started since Kai Volcy and Emma Clarke started the Pac-12 Tournament against Arizona State on Mar. 7, 2019…CU falls to 9-3 all-time against DU…Tuitele and Sherrod were both handed technical fouls…Both teams had 10 first half turnovers with DU taking advantage outscoring CU 11-5 off turnovers in the half…CU finished with 20 points off DU's 20 turnovers…Colorado's eight 3FGM was the most since hitting eight against Utah on Jan. 17 last season…Colorado won the battle on the glass 43-32…Colorado went 69 percent at the free-throw line and has yet to finish better than 70 percent this season.
NEXT UP: The Buffs get some time to recover and rest up as they prepare for the remainder of the Pac-12 season. CU will host Utah on Dec. 14 at noon, part of basketball double-header at the CU Events Center next Monday.