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Buffs Move on in Vegas

Mar 2, 2022

LAS VEGAS – The Colorado women's basketball team advanced to the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament for the first time since the 2018 tournament in Seattle on Wednesday. The Buffaloes survived the pesky Washington Huskies, walking away with a 64-52 win at Michelob Ultra Arena. 

Colorado (21-7) used a 24-point fourth quarter to separate from the No. 12-seeded Huskies, avoiding a second consecutive first-round upset to UW.  

The Buffs were paced by senior Peanut Tuitele and her season-high 16 points. Fifth-year senior Mya Hollingshed scored 13 of her 15 points in the second half and added 12 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season. Junior Quay Miller, a UW transfer, totaled nine points and seven boards. 

"[I'm] really proud of our ball club tonight," head coach JR Payne said after the win. "We knew that it wouldn't be the prettiest game. Going in we knew that and expected that. Just a lot of jitters and post-season play and all of those things. But I'm unbelievably proud of our resiliency and how we were able to really stick together and find a way to win the basketball game."

The game took a somber turn late in the fourth quarter when Colorado guard Tameiya Sadler fell to the court. She was taken off by stretcher with 2:41 to play. Colorado held a 54-51 lead at the time and outscored UW 10-1 when play resumed to close out the victory. 

"I think it [the delay] just kind of allowed us to settle into the game more than when we should have," Hollingshed explained. "We were trying to do that early on in the game, we really just hadn't, and I think when that moment happened we just all came together. And I know a couple of us were like we're just going to finish this game and finish it for Tam."

The Buffs shot 50% from the field in the second half after a lethargic 25% first half. CU's defense forced 13 UW turnovers and held the Huskies to 35.8 percent shooting on the day. 

Washington (13-12) was led by Lauren Schwartz and Nancy Mulkey with 11 points apiece. 

How it happened: Offense was scarce for both the Buffs and Huskies in the first half. 

Both teams started a combined 0-for-12 from the field, with Colorado getting the first basket of the tournament with almost five minutes running off the clock. 

Miller scored CU's first six points, accounting for half of the team's total in the first quarter. Colorado was troubled by the size of UW inside early on, getting denied at the basket three times in the frame. The Buffs shot 5-for-22 in the quarter, including a 1-for-9 mark from 3. The CU defense stood tall on the other end of the court, limiting UW to just 3-15 in the first 10 minutes. 

Washington cut the CU lead to 12-10 at the start of the second, but the Buffs used a 5-0 run to regain its seven-point advantage, 17-10. Freshman Kindyll Wetta scored six of CU's nine points in the quarter and the Buffs' defense held the Huskies to without a field in the final 4:16 to maintain the 21-17 lead at the half.

UW minimized Hollingshed's offensive impact in the half, holding her to just two points. She made her presence felt on the glass, snagging 10 rebounds in the opening half. 

The Huskies recorded all five of their blocks in the first half, with Mulkey leading the way with four. 

"Our shots were definitely not falling, luckily no one's was really falling for the majority of the first half," Payne continued. "It's different for us with a player like Mulkey in the game because she is so much bigger in the paint than we're used to seeing. When your shots aren't falling you want to be able to do different things in the paint, but that was a challenge for us."

Washington outscored CU 22-19 in the third quarter and twice took the lead. The Huskies used an 8-0 run, capped by a Mulkey 3, to take its first lead of the day at 33-31. 

Colorado and Washington traded 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the quarter, allowing UW to gain its second brief lead, 36-34. Hollingshed drilled all three of CU's triples, recording all nine of her quarter points in the final two minutes, to put the Buffs up 40-39 at the end of the quarter. 

"It [the end of the third] was great because we were able to get our team going offensively," Hollingshed added. "We were seeing the ball go through the net and I think that kind of energized everybody. We knew we needed to get some stops we weren't as lucky during that run of just going back and forth, but it just is good to see the ball go through the net even when we aren't shooting well. it just makes the basket get a little bit bigger, so it's always good."

The fourth quarter was it was Tuitele's turn to hog the scoring. She scored seven points in the first two minutes to give CU a 47-43 advantage. The Huskies were keeping pace with the Buffs and took back the lead at 43-42. Tuitele hit her lone 3 of the day to put CU up four, 47-43, before UW cut it back to two on the next possession.

"I think I was just playing a little looser," Tuitele said of the second half. "It's the jitters and T [Toriano Towns] talked to me and he was like, 'Why are you playing so tight?' And I'm like, 'I don't know, dude.' So he said, 'Just play loose.' think once I first saw it go in that's when I just started doing my game and doing my thing."   

Sadler hit a 3-pointer to reclaim the four-point advantage, 52-48, but UW was again there with another 3-pointer to keep within one with 3:45 to play. 

That's when Colorado dug in. Tuitele got to the basket to give the Buffs the 54-51 lead and CU forced two turnovers to help fuel a 10-0 run over a span of 3:25. The Buffs didn't allow a UW field goal in the final 3:35 and closed out the game on a 12-1 run, going 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute.

Turning Point: Sadler's injury paused the game at a key moment for both teams. Colorado led by three and the emotional impact could have easily weighed on the Buffs. CU instead used the pause to regroup and rally around Sadler.

The Buffs missed their first shot when play resumed, but a Frida Formann 3 at the 1:52 mark helped continue the CU run and bring energy back to the Buffaloes. The Buffs nearly shutout UW after the pause, giving up only one point at the free-throw line. 

Four different CU players scored in the 12-1 run to close the victory.

Up Next: The Buffs will match up with No. 4 seeded Arizona on Thursday. Tip is set for 1 p.m. MT. 

Game Notes: 22 first quarter FGA is the most in a quarter this season…Colorado had 22 offensive rebounds to UW's 21 defensive rebounds…CU had a 13-3 advantage in second-chance points…CU is 20-0 this season when leading after three quarters…CU is now 7-10 all-time in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Hollingshed Notes: Hollingshed had her ninth double-double of the season and first career tournament double-double…She moved into sixth on CU's scoring list with 1647 points, passing both Kennedy Leonard (2015-19, 1635) and Chucky Jeffery (2009-13, 1644)…Her 12 rebounds were a season-high and give her 887 on her career.

Sadler Update: Sadler is being kept at the hospital overnight for observation.