Buffs' Season Comes to Close
COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — Colorado's run in the 2021 WNIT came to a halt on Monday night at My Town Movers Fieldhouse. The Buffaloes, playing with heavy hearts, dropped the quarterfinal matchup to Ole Miss, 65-56.
"I want to make sure I share my thoughts and prayers, and our team's thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Boulder right now," head coach JR Payne stated after the game. "I know it has been a very difficult day with things that are far bigger than basketball. While I am disappointed in the game, I want to make sure I share that our hearts are back in Boulder with our community right now."
The Buffs struggled to avoid foul trouble all night, seeing Mya Hollingshed and Lesila Finau get early exits. Fouls combined with turnovers proved to be difficult to overcome. Ole Miss shot 55.2 percent in the first half, including a 73.3 mark in the second quarter, to build a 16-point lead at the half. The Rebels' lead hit 18 in the second half, but despite the adversity, CU closed to within three points in the fourth quarter.
"As it relates to the basketball game, we had a valiant effort," Payne added. "To fight back to three points with our point guard on the bench most of the game and our star scorer out for a large portion was a pretty remarkable show of heart from everyone else that had to step up and contribute in a way they probably didn't expect to be called upon. I am very proud of our team and the way that we competed tonight."
Freshman Frida Formann led the way for Colorado with 19 points, going 6-for-10 from the floor. Sophomore Charlotte Whittaker continued her stellar tournament. She posted 11 points, converting 5-of-9 from the free-throw line. Hollingshed and Peanut Tuitele both finished with eight points.
Formann and Tuitele were named to the Memphis Region All-Tournament Team after the game.
Colorado closes the season with a 12-11 record. The Buffaloes won six of its final eight games, its best finish to a season since the 2012-13 season (10-2).
Ole Miss (14-11) advances to the tournament semifinals as the Memphis region champion. The Rebels had two players with double-doubles. Madison Scott closed with 11 points and 12 rebounds while Shakira Austin finished with 12 points and 10 boards. Donnetta Johnson led the Rebels in scoring with 15 points.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado got down early after the Rebels opened with a 5-2 run. Hollingshed scored CU's first four points and Whittaker added the next five to tie the game at 9-9 six minutes into the game. Aubrey Knight and Formann added CU's next five points, giving the Buffs a 7-0 run and a 13-9 lead. CU started the quarter 6-for-9 from the field but closed the period just 0-for-3. Ole Miss finished the quarter with a jumper before the buzzer, cutting CU's lead to 13-11.
Colorado went 0-for-4 to start the second quarter and carried over a scoreless streak from the first quarter. . Whittaker hit a free-throw to break a 13-13 tie, but the Rebels hit their next four shots to go on a 7-0 run and claim a 20-14 lead.
The Buffs totaled seven turnovers in the second, with Finau playing only two minutes in the quarter with three fouls to her name. Ole Miss scored 12 of its 28 points in the second off the CU turnovers. The Rebels hit 11-for-15 in the quarter and led by 16, 39-23 at the break.
The Rebels gained their largest lead of the night, 41-23, right out of the halftime break. CU answered with a 7-0 run to get back within 11, 41-30, three minutes into the period. A Knight layup cut the deficit down to nine, 43-34, but Ole Miss closed the quarter on a quick 5-0 run to take a 54-39 lead into the fourth.
Hollingshed was awarded her fifth foul just 14 seconds into the final quarter, ending her season with a full quarter to play. Colorado was then giving a technical foul and Ole Miss converted both free throws to extend the lead to 56-39.
"It [foul trouble] is not the reason we didn't win the ballgame, but it impacted every single facet of the game," Payne continued. "It impacted our ability to cleanly run an offense from the backcourt to the frontcourt. It took away our first-team all-league kid [Hollingshed] who is our leading score and rebounder. With that being said, Charlotte stepped up. Peanut stepped up. Frida stepped up. Everybody did more which is what they know they need to do. When somebody is down it is the next woman up. Our team did an incredible job of that this entire tournament."
Finau and Formann combined for a 7-0 run to get back within 10 points, 56-46, with 7:19 to go. The run was briefly interrupted, but Colorado was not phased. Tuitele grabbed an offensive rebound and got the put-back to go, continuing CU's push. The Buffs' run expanded to 16-4 spanned 7:33 of the final quarter. Formann closed the run with free throws, bringing the Buffs within three, 58-55.
"I am really proud of how my team came out in the second half," Tuitele said. "We came together in the locker room and talked about how we needed to come together, play solid defense and execute our offense more cleanly and precisely. I am just really proud of how we came back as a new team in the second half."
The Buffs didn't get another field goal in the final 2:13 and the Rebels closed 5-for-7 from the free-throw line and got a second-chance basket off one of the missed attempts to finish off the night.
"This season was huge," Tuitele reflected. "Coach JR was mentioning all the accomplishments we had with beating No. 1 Stanford, Jaylyn having a season-ending injury and Sila stepping up and doing everything she could. She did a great job. We had three people on all-conference teams. We have grown so much within this difficult year. I am incredibly proud of our team. We are going to just keep growing from here on out because a lot of us are returning."
TURNING POINT: CU's fourth-quarter run erased an 18-point deficit. It was the second time the Buffs have had a fourth-quarter double-digit deficit erased this season. The Buffs used a 17-0 run against Stanford to fight back against the Cardinal.
KEY STATISTIC: Ole Miss outscored Colorado 28-10 in the second quarter, making 11-of-15 shots. The Rebels went 3-for-3 from 3-point distance in the quarter, the only makes from long distance they had all night.
NOTES: CU's 26 personal fouls tied for the most this season (at Oregon State)…Colorado finished with 21 turnovers, leading to 25 Ole Miss points…CU's bench outscored Ole Miss, 17-7…CU is now 16-7 all-time in the WNIT…Formann finishes the season with 62 3FGM, 13th all-time…Hollingshed closes the season with 1,244 career points one behind Jamee Swann for 21st on the list…CU averaged 66.3 ppg during WNIT…Formann averaged 17.0 ppg to lead CU in the tournament…Tuitele had 12.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in the tournament…Whittaker averaged 10.7 ppg, up from her season average of 5.1.