Buffs Outlast Falcons
USAFA, Colo.—Colorado needed every ounce of energy in its 58-53 win at Air Force on Sunday. The Buffaloes led for 33 minutes but needed the final two to pull out the team's second win of the young season.
Colorado (2-0) was paced by junior Quay Miller and her 17 points and seven rebounds. The Buffs shot 51.1 percent (24-47) in the game, struggled with turnovers (24) and free throws (6-15). Junior Jaylyn Sherrod reached double figures for the first time this season, putting in 12 points to go with her six rebounds and four steals.
"We always want to be tough and gritty throughout a 40-minute game," head coach JR Payne explained. "Today provided us an opportunity to do that when we needed to. Collectively, we were able to execute certain things defensively and offensively when we needed to. A game like this should really make us better in the long run because there's so much to learn from it."
Air Force (1-1) had three players in double figures, led by Cierra Winters (16). Riley Snyder and Dasha MacMillian finished with 11 points apiece. The Falcons went 19-for-55 (34.5 percent) from the field, getting half their field goals from behind the 3-point line. Like the Buffs, AFA also struggled to keep possession of the ball, turning it over 23 times.
"Today was 100 percent what I thought it would be," Payne added. "They're [AFA] tough. They're gritty. They pressure all over the floor. That's exactly what they did for 40 minutes today."
The win for the Buffs gives CU its first 2-0 start to a season away from Boulder since the 1987-88 season when they beat Creighton and St. Johns in Irvine, Calif.
How it happened
The Buffs and Falcons kept things close in the first quarter. Air Force got the first bucket of the day and the two-point margin proved to be its largest lead of the day. Mya Hollingshed got her lone field goal of the first half to even the score and Miller's first basket gave CU the 4-2 lead.
The lead swapped five times in the first quarter and saw four different ties. The Buffs took a 13-11 lead off a Frida Formann 3-pointer, but AFA came right back and tied the game at the free-throw line with 1:30 to play in the quarter. CU took the lead for good with a 4-0 run from Sherrod to close the quarter leading 17-13.
Miller got the Buffs lead to six, 19-13, at the start of the second quarter, but the Falcons fought back to get within one, 19-18. Air Force hit three 3's in the second frame to keep the game within striking distance. The Buffs lead hit nine inside the final minute, 30-21, before Dasha MacMillan closed the quarter with a 3-pointer to bring AFA back to within six at the half.
Colorado got to the free-throw line just twice in the first half, going 1-of-2, a theme that would hunt the Buffs the remainder of the day. AFA didn't get to line much either in the first 20 minutes, closing the half 3-for-4.
The Buffs opened the third quarter attacking with more purpose. Colorado scored 12 of its 38 points in the paint in the third period. The Buffs shot 63.6 percent (7-for-11) in the quarter, getting contributions from Peanut Tuitele, Lesila Finau, Kindyll Wetta, Hollingshed and Miller. Defensively, CU held the Falcons to 5-for-15 (33.3 percent) from the field, allowing the Buffs to increase its lead to as many as 11 in the quarter. Miller capped the third with a layup in the final seconds to give the Buffs a 46-36 advantage heading to the fourth.
"It might have looked like it was easy just laying it up against them since we're so much bigger," Miller commented. "It was tough finishing and having to deal with three bodies on you and finishing through contact. That was tough, but I think that showed our resilience and our strength. I think that was good for us."
Air Force cut the CU lead down to five in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter, holding CU to an 0-for-3 start from the field. The Buffs hit just three shots in the quarter and saw its lead dwindle to one with 2:17 to play. Sherrod hit a 3-pointer with 1:59 to play, putting an end to AFA's 7-0 run and giving CU a little bit of a cushion at 54-50.
The Buffs wouldn't hit another field goal the rest of the game, instead, having to close the game out from the free-throw line and on the defensive end. Colorado finished the final 1:09 going 4-for-6 from the line and getting a timely block from Fina and a 3-point attempt with 24 seconds to play.
"This was a good game to get out of the way," Miller added. "It tested our ability to play against a tough, scrappy team. A team that we had an advantage over with our size and we could use that to our benefit [at times]."
Sherrod's 3-pointer with just under two minutes to play was a key moment for the Buffs. The shot swung the momentum back in Colorado's favor and gave CU a shot of energy. CU would outscore Air Force 7-3 in the final two minutes to secure the win.
"The way we were not scoring, even though our percentage was very high—every shot we made was a big one," Payne noted. "But [Jaylyn's] was certainly one of the more important shots of the game."
Colorado heads back to the CU Events Center to tip off the home slate on Friday, hosting Marquette (7 p.m. MT).
Sunday was CU's second road game to start the season, marking the first time since 2017-18 that CU played its first two games of the season away from the CU Events Center (1-1 start that season)…The Buffs are now 7-0 all-time against Air Force…The last time CU's road record stood at 2-0 was after wins over Colorado State and Wyoming in the 2019-20 season…It's the fourth consecutive season that CU has started 2-0 and the fifth time under JR Payne.