Buffs Buck the Cowgirls in Opener
STILLWATER, Okla.—JR Payne and the Colorado Buffaloes battled for a 55-45 win at Oklahoma State to open the season on Wednesday. It was the Buffs' first win at Gallagher-Iba Arena since 2003.
Colorado (1-0), improved to 43-5 all-time in season openers thanks in part to 15 points from Mya Hollingshed. Junior Jaylyn Sherrod returned to action for the first time since Jan. 17, scoring nine points to go with her six assists and five rebounds. Junior transfer Quay Miller made her CU debut with nine points and six boards.
Colorado Wednesday night was CU's first opening-night match-up against another Power 5 team since its loss to Georgia Tech to open the 1984-85 season.
"T [associate head coach Toriano Towns] said to the team before the game today that, 'She [JR] scheduled this game because she believes in this team and what they're capable of being and that she thinks they're ready,'" Payne explained about the matchup. "Almost kind of challenging the team in that way and he's absolutely right. There are not too many Power 5 teams that squared off against each other on opening day. We were courageous enough to do it on the road.
"I'm thrilled with the victory," Payne continued. "We played well in spurts. We definitely have lots to learn from, but I'm excited about our win."
CU's never trailed and built a lead of 16 midway through the fourth quarter before Oklahoma State cut it back down to seven in the final two minutes. The Buffs scored the final four points of the night to seal the win.
Colorado finished 17-of-47 (36.2 percent) from the field and outrebounded OSU by 10, 41-31. CU's defense was the backbone of the win, holding OSU to 17-for-54 (31.5 percent) from the field and forcing 17 turnovers.
"We have emphasized the defense and pressure," senior Peanut Tuitele noted. "You have to know your principles. Defense wins championships and we're just going to keep bettering our defense and it's going to translate to our offense."
Oklahoma State was led by Lauren Fields and her 17 points. Lexy Keys hit all four of OSU's 3-pointers on her way to 16 points.
How it happened
The Buffs' defense was the star of the first 10 minutes. Colorado held the Cowgirls to 2-for-12 shooting in the first quarter and forced Oklahoma State into eight turnovers. The Buffs' strong defensive start allowed the team's offense to build a 9-0 lead. Colorado's lead jumped out to 12 points with a Tayanna Jones layup. OSU's second field goal of the quarter came inside the final minute, with Keys making good on her second 3-pointer of the period.
"I credit our seniors for making sure that our team was prepared, focused and dialed in," Payne added. "We were really locked in and ready to play. I think when T [Towns] challenged them they [the team] took that to heart and really stepped up. The way we came out—with that type of energy—I think our execution was good and we were so active defensively, that I think that set the tone for the entire night."
OSU bounced back to start the second quarter, slimming the Colorado advantage to five points (15-8) in the first minute of play. The Cowgirls got within four points, 17-13, before Hollingshed scored four consecutive points to push the lead back to 22-13. Colorado closed out the second frame with a 6-0 run, fueled by freshman Kindyll Wetta and Miller to give CU a 32-20 lead at the break.
Colorado was 12-for-28 in the first half from the field and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw stripe. Oklahoma State was just 7-for-24 in the half with 11 turnovers.
OSU came out with a lot more pressure on the Buffs in the third quarter, resulting in the Cowgirls outscoring CU 10-9 in the period. The Buffs shooting dipped to 27.3 percent (3-for-11) in the quarter and turned the ball over five times. Despite the Buffs suffering a drought of almost six minutes without a field goal, the lead never got below seven, 35-28. Jones and Miller put an end to the shooting slum to get CU back up by 12 before the quarter ended.
OSU struck quick to start the fourth quarter, going on a 4-0 run to slim the CU lead to 41-34. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Frida Formann and Hollingshed sparked a 9-0 run to push the Buffs lead to 16, 50-34, with 4:47 to play. OSU cut its deficit down to seven, 52-45, with 1:47 left but it was too little too late.
"This is honestly, since my four years of being here, the best opening win we've had," Tuitele explained. "In the past, teams play other teams they know they can blow out. But we actually wanted to take a challenged and our coaches believed in us. We came out and did what we did. It's a learning opportunity because it's the first game. I can only imagine how much we are going to grow from here."
Formann's 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, her only 3 of the night, came in transition off a key block by Tuitele. Tuitele put a hand up and swatted N'Yah Boyd's jumper that if good, would have cut the CU lead down to five. Instead, the Buffs ran down the other way and Formann finished off the fastbreak, giving CU a five-point swing.
The Buffs return to the Centennial State for game No. 2. CU will drive down to Air Force on Sunday, taking on the Falcons at 2 p.m. MT.
Colorado is now 27-26 all-time against Oklahoma State…the win broke a six-game losing streak to OSU, giving the Buffs their first win vs OSU since Feb. 26, 2006…Hollingshed's 15 points moved her past Jamee Swan (2012-16) and Crystal Ford (1985-89) and into 20th on CU's all-time scoring list (1,259).