Shorthanded Buffs Take Down Trojans
BOULDER – The Colorado women's basketball team took care of business after an 18-day break, opening Pac-12 Conference play with a 71-58 win over Southern California. The Buffaloes shook off the rust and improved to 12-0 on the season with only nine available players.
The Buffs used an eight-player rotation in their first game since Dec. 20, getting double-digit contributions from four different scorers. Fifth-year senior Mya Hollingshed led all scorers with 18 points and eight rebounds. Junior Quay Miller recorded her first double-double as a Buffs, totaling 13 points and tying her career-high with 10 rebounds. Junior Jaylyn Sherrod had eight assists to go with her 15 points. Sophomore Frida Formann finished with 15 points, going 3-for-8 from 3-point distance.
"I wasn't sure what tonight's game was going to look like because both teams have not played in a while," head coach JR Payne commented after the win. "This is the longest break we've had in between games since 1979, which is a very long time. I am unbelievably proud of my ballclub. We were tough. We were resilient. We pushed through. I think every team in the country is facing some level of adversity at this point of the year. I knew that our response would be tough and gritty. I'm very excited to start Pac-12 (play) with a win against a good USC team. I'm proud of who we are, not even necessarily what we did. I'm proud of who we are as a ballclub and excited to go 1-0 today."
The Buffs' 12-0 start matches its best since the 2019-20 season. CU improved to 3-8 all-time in Pac-12 openers, with two of the three wins coming in the last three seasons. CU also keeps pace with Pac-12 rival Arizona, as the two teams remain the only undefeated squads in the nation.
"It feels awesome [to be 12-0]," Payne added. "We talk a lot about going 1-0 on game day. We just want to continue to do that and play great basketball with great effort. We're excited to be where we are. It's just been a long time since we've played. As a team, we get into such a rhythm of playing every couple of days. There's a rhythm to our lives that revolves around basketball. To have that jilted with Christmas break and then some canceled games -- it has kind of thrown us all a little. I think we feel pretty good now."
Friday was the first chance the Colorado women have gotten to play since the devastating Marshall Fire that has affected the Boulder community. 1,592 people came out to the CU Events Center on Friday, with the Colorado Athletic Department continuing its gift card drive to assist the fire victims. On the court, it was a chance for the Buffs to provide an escape.
"I think sports are a way to get everyone together and give something that everyone can enjoy," Sherrod explained. "The community has been through a lot lately and I think it is good to see people come support us. I think it is our job to do the same for them because without our fans and you guys, we wouldn't be who we are. I think it's just important to give back and support one another the best we can."
Southern California (7-4, 0-1 Pac-12) was led by Jordyn Jenkins and her 14 points. The Trojans recorded 12 blocks on the night and outshot the Buffs 41.1 percent to 34.7 percent for the game.
How it happened
Sherrod gave CU the lead in the early minutes with a 3-pointer, after getting down 2-0 to USC. The shot from Sherrod pushed her past the 500 career-point mark, becoming the first of two players to reach the milestone in the same games. Miller would score four points in the opening quarter to join the 500 club.
The 2-0 advantage for USC would be its only lead of the night. The Buffs outscored the Women of Troy 21-12 in the opening 10 minutes, hitting 41 percent (7-17) in the quarter. USC got within five in the final minutes, but a 4-0 in the last 1:23 of the quarter helped push the CU lead back to nine.
The Buffs needed that cushion going into the second. USC outscored Colorado 17-13 and narrowed the CU lead down to two in the quarter. A Formann 3 brought an end to a 7-2 run and put the Buffs back up by five, 28-23. A layup from freshman Kindyll Wetta secured CU's five-point lead at the half, despite the Trojans hitting a game-high 63.6 percent (7-11) in the second.
"We're going to keep going through adversity throughout the season, but all teams are," Payne noted. "The fact that we have a lot of veterans that know what 'Colorado' on our chest represents, they really believe in it, they feel it. To go through adversity with that type of veteran group, they really know what it takes to be successful. I'm not afraid of anything that's in our path."
Formann flipped the switch in the third quarter, scoring 110 of CU's 22 points. She went 3-for-5 from the field and 2-for-4 free behind the arc. The Buffs hit their first five baskets of the quarter and parlayed that into an 18-6 run to give CU the 52-35 lead with just over five minutes to go in the quarter. USC used a late 13-4 rush to narrow the Buffs' lead back to eight, 56-48 at the end of the frame.
"It feels great [being a spark for the team]," Formann exclaimed. "We have a lot of things that set me up, so I really want to set my team up for success too. I think that today was just what I needed to do. Whatever I needed to do to help my team. It was nice to make some shots and to be able to cash in on some of those opportunities that I get every game."
Sherrod, who left momentarily left the game at the end of the third, was back on the floor at the start of the fourth quarter and hit a key 3-pointer to put CU back up by double figures, 59-48. USC cut it back down to nine, but Buffs responded with a 9-0 run to solidify a 68-50 lead. Hollingshed totaled nine points in the quarter, going 3-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free-throw line. CU's defense kept USC out of harm's way, limiting the visitors to just 5-for-13 in the final quarter.
"Basketball is a game of runs that is just how the game goes," Sherrod continued. "We knew they were going to run. At some point we got tired, but we just had to rally. I know at the start of the fourth I looked at everyone and said 'There are only ten minutes left and we just have to give it our all for ten minutes. I understand we are shorthanded but that does not matter.' We came too far in the game to give it away. We realized we had to tough it out. It was a mentality we all took."
CU's 9-0 run in the fourth quarter proved to be the final dagger for the Trojans. The run got started with a Miller layup, but it was Hollingshed who put an exclamation mark on things. She scored seven consecutive points in three minutes, helping put the game out of reach by the five-minute mark of the quarter.
The Buffs will look forward to UCLA on Sunday (11 a.m. MT). It will be the first meeting between the two schools since Feb. 28, 2020. Both of the scheduled games between the Buffs and Bruins got canceled in the 2020-21 season.
CU improved to 23-10 in December in the Payne era…The team is 9-0 at home this season… The win continues CU's Pac-12 win streak, moving to five (four to end last season), marking the first five-game conference winning streak since the 2012-13 season…CU had 14 steals, its eighth game of the season with 10+…USC's bench outscored CU's for just the second time this season, 29-17….Rebounds were even on the night with both teams snagging 45…The 45 rebounds marked a season-high for the Buffs (42, Texas Southern)…Hollingshed played 36 minutes, moving her past Lisa Van Goor for 15th all-time (3,271).