Buffs Open WNIT in Decisive Fashion
COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — Colorado's first postseason appearance since the 2017 WNIT did not disappoint on Friday. The Buffaloes led by 11 at halftime and cruised past Louisiana in the second half, opening its run in the WNIT with a 68-45 win.
The Buffaloes finished with three players in double figures. CU was led by junior Peanut Tuitele and freshman Frida Formann. Tuitele recorded her first double-double of the season, totaling 14 points and 10 rebounds. Formann got a late start but finished with 14 points. Mya Hollingshed, who was held scoreless in the first half, finished with 10 points.
"All three of those guys including Mya, who was struggling early, are capable of picking up the slack," head coach JR Payne commented. "A lot of different people on this team are capable of picking up the slack. The best thing is that nobody really cares. Mya was struggling early and she was frustrated with the way that her game was going, but she didn't allow her frustration to deter anybody else and I love that. It's a pretty selfless group. I think Peanut's effort on the glass was incredible. I think a lot of her scores came from offensive rebounds or second chances. Frida just kind of got going, so then we tried to run a couple of things for her and she was able to knock those down, but I do love that everybody was able to step up tonight."
Colorado (11-10) remains perfect in the first round of the tournament, improving to 7-0. The win sets up a matchup with former Big 12 rival Nebraska on Saturday (4 p.m. MT).
"I learned very early in my tenure at Colorado that I cannot wear red, no matter what day of the week or no matter where I'm going," Payne said about the matchup with Nebraska. "When I know that, I know it's pretty serious. I just think it's two really good basketball teams. The coaching staff was able to sit and watch the game. We know some of the players on their team that we recruited. We know that team well. It's a little bit personal I think for a couple of their players and our staff. They are a really good basketball team and very well-coached."
Louisiana (16-7) had two players score in double figures. Brandi Williams led the Ragin Cajuns with 12 points, while Ty'Reona Doucet was limited to 10 points on the day.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado scored seven points in the first two minutes, getting started with a 3-pointer by Lesila Finau. Tayanna Jones helped spark the Buffs early on, scoring all four of her first-half points inside the first four minutes of the quarter, adding a highlight block to her energetic start.
CU's lead hit seven, 14-7, off a Finau 3, giving her six points in the quarter. The Buffs shot 6-for-15 in the frame and 2-for-3 from 3-point distance.
The Buffs did a good job on the glass in the first quarter, outrebounding the Ragin Cajuns 13-8 in the first 10 minutes.
Sophomore Zuzanna Kulinska opened the second with a shot from deep, extending CU's lead to 17-11. The Cajuns clawed back with a 6-0 run to tie the game at 19, but Kulinska hit a long jumper to put CU back up 21-19. Louisiana went back down on its next possession, tying the game at 21.
A pair of Tuitele free-throws broke the tie, 23-21, and then Formann kicked it into fourth gear. She hit her first basket of the game, a 3-pointer with 3:25 to play in the half, giving the Buffs a 26-21 lead. She hit two more in the half and the Buffs finished the quarter on a 10-2 run, leading 36-25 at the break.
"I struggled a little bit at first," Formann admitted. "I think we were just playing good defense and then making shots. We just needed that momentum to get a good solid lead which we knew we would get eventually. It was really good."
The Cajuns opened the second half with a three-point play, cutting the CU lead down to eight, 36-38. That would be as close as UL would get the rest of the way. Tuitele scored four points in an 8-3 run that put the Buffs comfortably in the lead, 44-30.
Hollingshed got her first basket, a 3-pointer, midway through the third quarter, kick-starting a 9-0 run that would put the Buffs up by 20, 53-33. She finished the quarter with eight points, after an 0-for-6 start to the day.
The Buffs held Louisiana off the scoreboard for the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, scoring the first eight points of the frame to build a 63-37 lead.
The Colorado bench totaled 11 of CU's 13 points in the quarter, solidifying the victory. All 13 dressed players saw the floor, with 10 different Buffs recording points.
"That's huge," Formann added. "I think now in the postseason we want everyone to step up and be at their best. When Mya and I aren't hitting shots that doesn't mean that we're not in the game at all. We have so many weapons on our team. I think that it's really good for everyone. Everyone also knows that if you're open, shoot it. Everyone can get going and then eventually it will click for all of us."
TURNING POINT: The Buffs outscored Louisiana 15-6 to end the second quarter, setting up CU's dominant second half. Colorado took control was able to take control, outscoring UL 34-18 from the point of the 21-21 tie to the end of the third quarter. The run expands to 47-26 over the game's final 25 minutes.
KEY STATISTIC: Louisiana's 45 points are the fewest the Buffs have allowed this season. UL finished 17-for 58 (.293) from the field, the 17 field goals are the second-fewest by a CU opponent this season (14, Air Force).
UP NEXT: The Buffs move on in the main bracket, taking on Nebraska on Saturday. The Huskers advanced with a 72-46 win over UT Martin on Friday.
NOTES: The Buffs are now 15-6 all-time in the WNIT and 4-2 in games not in Boulder…It was exactly four years to the date of CU's last postseason win (Mar. 19, 2017 at South Dakota State, 81-75 OT)…Hollingshed now has 1,233 career points, chasing Jamee Swan for 21st all-time…Formann now has 55 3FGM this season, the most since Alexis Robinson in 2018-19 (55)…Tuitele's double-double was her first since Dec. 21, 2019 (third career)…CU is 41-28 overall against Nebraska…It will be the first meeting between the Buffs and Huskers since Mar. 2, 2011.