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Mar 3, 2022

LAS VEGAS – A late Frida Formann 3-pointer proved to be the final dagger that helped Colorado narrowly escape the fourth-seeded and 14th ranked Arizona Wildcats, 45-43, in Thursday's Pac-12 quarterfinal. 

Colorado (22-7) outlasted a late Arizona run that saw the Wildcats score 10 points in 56 seconds and take a 41-38 lead. The Buffs' defense batten down the hatches in the final six minutes of play, holding the surging Wildcats to an 0-for-9 finish. 

"I looked at it [box score] and said, Okay, we out-rebounded them, we turned it over, and we played defense, and I think that about sums up the game," head coach JR Payne said after the win. "I'm proud of our team for how we played, how we battled. We were up. We were down. We came back up, came back down, definitely a defensive effort from both teams as we knew it would be. In the end, I think we just handled our business. We talk about everything's a business trip and everyone has a job to do and we were able to do that tonight."

Formann got the starting nod to replace the injured Tameiya Sadler. She scored five of her eight points in key situations down the stretch for the Buffs.

"Frida is someone that we all trust to take a big shot and knock it down," Payne added. "She comes from a family of basketball players, her entire family has played, she grew up with a ball in her hands, she's comfortable and confident with the game on the line and it was a very big shot. I would say that all of us expected that shot to go in as soon as it left her hand."

Senior Mya Hollingshed led the Buffs with 12 points and just missed out on a second consecutive double-double with nine rebounds. Jaylyn Sherrod contributed eight points and handed out three of CU's 10 assists. Kindyll Wetta put in six points to go with a season-high eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. 

CU led for all but three minutes in the second half, only relinquishing the lead in Arizona's final effort. The Buffs weathered multiple Arizona runs throughout the contests, each time finding an answer. 

"We talked about how we've been in this situation before and we needed to learn from the previous games and slow it down," Hollingshed explained. "Coach talked about not catching it in the deep corner to set ourselves up to be trapped. We reiterated that in the huddles and timeouts and I think once we figured that out and we just kind of simplified it and not have everyone in the backcourt and kind of push a few people in the frontcourt, it eliminated a few more defenders and allowed us to have more room to just clear out and get the ball up the floor."

The Buffs finished the afternoon with a 38-31 advantage on the glass and won the turnover battle 21-15. Arizona's 43 points matched the fewest Colorado has allowed this season. 

How it happened: Defense took center stage early on Wednesday. Arizona got out to a 6-2 start but the Buffs held Arizona to without a field goal for the final 8:39 of the quarter. Formann and Hollingshed had CU's only field goals in the period and both teams combined to go 10-for-10 at the free-throw line, resulting in a slim 10-9 Arizona advantage. 

The Wildcats used a 9-0 run in the first half of the second quarter to gain some separation, leading 19-11. Colorado called a timeout and answered back with a 9-2 run to take its first lead of the afternoon at 21-20. Sherrod got the run started and scored four in the Buffs' offensive push. 

The Buffs again held tough on defense in the final five minutes of the half, limiting Arizona to three free throws and a 0-for-7 shooting finish.  

CU took the 24-22 lead into the half and continued to build on it at the start of the third. Hollingshed hit back-to-back 3's in a 7-2 spurt to give Colorado its largest lead of the game, 31-24. The Buffs outscored Arizona 9-4 in the period and held Arizona to 2-for-12 from the field and 0-of-5 from long distance. 

"We try to pressure the ball in our zone and be disruptive as much as we can," Payne noted. "They just ended up taking a lot of threes. That wasn't necessarily our game plan. That was just sort of what they ended up choosing to do."

A Sherrod 3-ball with 7:55 to play put the Buffs back up by seven, 38-31, and that's when things began to unravel. Colorado struggled to inbound the ball against Arizona's press and turned the ball over five times, allowing Arizona to go on the 10-0 run. 

"We've been in that situation. I didn't have to do a lot [of talking]," Payne added. "I think our team and our veterans, including these two [Wetta and Hollingshed], were able to communicate the changes that needed to be made and they were able to lean back on what happened last week and just came together and made better decisions. As Maya said, our spacing was better and things like that."

Peanut Tuitele put an end to the Arizona run with a layup to cut the UofA lead down to 41-40 with 5:07 to play and started a 7-2 race to the finish for the Buffs. 

Key Moment: Wetta recorded two key steals in the final five minutes for Colorado. The first taking away an explosion off an Arizona offensive rebound. Her second theft came at the 4:02 mark and led to her assisting on Formann's corner 3-pointer that proved to be the game's final field goal. 

"Our defense is something that we all take immense pride in and we know that if they hit a 3 we need to get a stop," Wetta stated. "We call a timeout and we say, 'We need to get a stop and score,' That's something that we all know as a team that we can't relax on defense because that's what's going to keep us in all of the games."

Up Next: The Buffs will play top-seeded Stanford in the 7 p.m. MT semifinal on Friday.

Game Notes: Arizona's four points in the third quarter were the fewest allowed by CU this season…CU's 45 points were the fewest by a winning team in tournament history (46, three times)…CU held Arizona to 25% shooting, the seventh-lowest in a tournament game…The 88 combined points match the lowest scoring Pac-12 game in CU history (50-38 vs Arizona in 2020)...Colorado is now 8-10 all-time in the Pac-12 Tournament…Formann's start was her first since Jan. 21 at Arizona State.

Hollingshed Notes: Hollingshed had her 23rd double-digit scoring game of the season…She remains sixth on CU's scoring list with 1659 points…She passed Jamillah Lang (617, 1990-94) and Chucky Jeffery (619, 2009-13) in field goals made now with 620.