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Buffs Breeze Past Southern Utah

Dec 7, 2021

CEDAR CITY, Utah – Colorado head coach JR Payne returned to her former stomping grounds and led the No. 25 Buffaloes to their ninth consecutive win, rolling Southern Utah 81-47.

Colorado (9-0) improved to 5-0 all-time against the Thunderbirds, with coach Payne picking up her first win against her former team. 

"The anticipation for T [Toriano Towns], Jill [Mahoney] and myself returning to Cedar City had been mounting for quite a while," Payne said of her return. "Just knowing how much Cedar City and Southern Utah meant to us. We really tried, knowing the game was going to be something we had to pour all of our focus into – we tried to get all the emotion out before the game started so when it came to game time it was all business. I think our team definitely heard that loud and clear."

Junior Quay Miller led the Buffs for the second straight night, pouring in 18 points off the bench. The first-year Buff went 8-for-11 in her 24 minutes and led the team with six rebounds. Sophomore Frida Formann was CU's only other double-figure scorer with 11 points, going 2-for-3 from 3-point distance. 

Colorado's defense was the focus of the night, forcing a season-high 26 turnovers. It was the first time the Buffs have recorded 20 or more steals since Nov. 24, 2002, against Detroit Mercy. CU turned the SUU mishaps into 27 points. 

"We talked with the team about the makeup of Southern Utah and them being a really tough, selfless group," Payne added. "We knew they would be completely unafraid of what it said across our chest. We knew that it would be important to be the aggressor early and I think we did that."

Southern Utah (4-5, 2-0 Big Sky) was led by Darri Dotson's 16 points. The Buffs limited SUU to 17-for-46 shooting and held the T-Birds to 4-of-14 from 3-point range. Southern Utah did win the rebounding battle, 32-26. 

How it happened
The Thunderbirds were aggressive on defense to start, blocking CU's first two shot attempts. The Buffs didn't let the SUU defense get in the way, using five early points from Lesila Finau to build a 7-2 lead. The T-Birds got to within three, 8-5, but the Buffs rattled off the next eight points to get their first 10-point lead of the day. 

The Buffs carried a 22-13 lead into the second half and only had it increase the rest of the night. Colorado outscored Southern Utah by 12 in the second quarter, using a 20-6 run to take commanding control of the night. Miller scored all nine of her first-half points in the run and CU shot 61.5 percent (8-13) in the quarter to take a 42-21 lead at the half. 

CU's lead did not dip below 21 points the rest of the night. Miller pushed the Buffs' lead to 28, 54-26, with under five minutes to play in the third quarter. CU hit three 3's in the quarter and shot 57.1 percent (8-14) in the period to take a 61-34 lead by the end of the quarter. 

"I think we were good at sharing the ball tonight and executing what we needed to do," Formann said. "It's always fun on this team because everyone can score. Everyone can do well on any night, so it's just really fun to play that way and share the ball."

Colorado hit a game-high 64.3 percent (9-14) in the final 10 minutes and saw its lead hit 37, the largest of the season, inside the final minute.

"It might be one of the better games we've played this year," Payne explained. "It was more of a complete game. We never want to get beat on the glass, which is something that kind of stands out on the stat sheet. I thought we moved the ball. I thought we shared the ball. Certainly, defensively we were just as disruptive as we wanted to be." 

Turning Point
CU's second quarter set the tone for the remainder of the night. Southern Utah scored the first basket of the quarter, cutting the Colorado lead to 22-15. The Buffs responded with a 9-0 run that grew to the defining 20-6 close to the half. 

Upcoming
Colorado's next game isn't until Dec. 17 against SMU back in Boulder. The Buffs will have time to rest up and focus on the upcoming finals before the semester comes to a close. 

"It's going to be so great to get them [finals] over with," Formann joked. "It's going to be just basketball for a while. That's going to be great."

Notes
The Buffs improved to 9-0 for the third time under Coach Payne…The Buffs improved to 20-10 in December in the Payne era… CU's 56.1 shooting percentage is the highest of the season (52.5 percent vs Texas Southern)… …CU's bench scored 39 points, marking the fourth game the team has totaled 35+ points this season…The Buffs posted 44 points in the paint, the eighth time CU has scored 30+ this season…CU has shot 50 percent or better in four games this season (twice in 2020-21)…The Buffs had 17 assists for the third time this season...Jaylyn Sherrod, who entered the game 5th in the NCAA in assist-turnover ratio, handed out one more assist (34) with two turnovers (10)…Miller has scored in double figures four times this season.