Buffs Come up Short in First Round of NCAA Tournament
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Colorado women's basketball team fought hard until the end but came up short Friday afternoon in an 84-74 loss to the Creighton Bluejays at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Colorado was led by junior Jaylyn Sherrod who dropped a career-high 27 points in her March Madness debut and also had a team-high five assists.
"I just came out and played my game," said Sherrod. "Mya (Hollingshed) and the coaches talked to me before the game and just told me to enjoy the moment, so that's what I did."
Colorado started the game hot, opening up with an 11-2 lead early in the first quarter. Creighton fought back to make it a four-point game at the end of the first, and in the second period, three Colorado players, Quay Miller, Sherrod, and Hollingshed all picked up their second fouls as Creighton ended the half on a 9-0 run. The Buffs didn't go away though and came back to tie the game at 41-41 three minutes into the second half.
Creighton, however, got hot from behind the arc and was solid from the line, going 18-for-20 from the stripe on the day to help them take a 61-53 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Despite a valiant fourth-quarter comeback effort from the Buffs that included eight points from Sherrod, Creighton was able to hold them off the rest of the way and move on to the next round.
"We're not defined by one game," head coach JR Payne exclaimed. "Even though the outcome of this game was very disappointing and we wanted to win and believed we could win-- we wanted a chance to play Sunday and continue to keep going. Our backs were up against the wall in must-win situations for the last six weeks and we continued to answer the bell every time. That's very difficult to do when you think about everything that these young ladies are working through, being full-time students and crushing it in the classroom. It's a lot and it's very difficult. For them to have continued to answer the bell over and over and over again, was pretty incredible, and I was very proud of them for that."
The Buffs put a cap on an incredible season in which they totaled 22 wins - the most under Coach Payne and the most since the 2012-13 season (25-7). The Buffs ripped off 13 straight wins to open the year and were the last undefeated men's or women's Division I squad left standing. Colorado spent three weeks in the AP Top 25, topping out at No. 22 and pulled off a season sweep of UCLA and USC for the first time while picking up ranked wins over No. 25 Oregon and No. 14 Arizona.
"I'm very proud of Mya (Hollingshed), Peanut (Tuitele), Lesila (Finau) and Aubrey (Knight)," said Payne. "All four of those young ladies have had a huge impact on our program. Their impact will be felt years from now. Freshmen will come to Colorado and they will know about those four - their work ethic, loyalty and their dedication to making something special happen at CU. For that, I'm very proud of all of them."
Creighton was led by Morgan Maly with 20 points followed by Lauren Jensen and Molly Morgensen each with 16 and the Bluejays will take on the winner of #2 Iowa and #15 Illinois State.
How it happened: Although the Buffs had not played in a game in two weeks, they showed no sign of rust and got off to a fast 7-0 start fueled by five points from Sherrod and a floater from Tuitele. Following a layup from the Bluejays, Sherrod got to the basket once again after a steal from Kindyll Wetta. Creighton began to find their rhythm after that and used a quick 8-2 spurt to cut the Buffs' lead down to 15-10. The sides exchanged buckets the rest of the way, and Colorado finished the quarter up 21-17.
Both squads got after it to start the second period and struggled to string stops together. Colorado found ways to score, with Sherrod nailing a 3 and a free throw while Miller got a layup to drop in the post. Creighton was getting things to drop down low though, and scored eight straight baskets in the paint, including six from Maly, as CU led 27-25 midway through the quarter.
Out of the media timeout, Creighton got a quick bucket and then the Buffs responded and got back-to-back field goals from Miller and Tuitele as Colorado held a 31-27 lead.
Those would be the last points of the half for the Buffaloes, however, as Creighton took advantage of Colorado's foul trouble, playing without Miller, Sherrod and Hollingshed in the final minutes. The Bluejays put together a 9-0 surge to end the half, getting to the line and then nailing a three with just four seconds left on the clock, and Creighton led 36-31 into intermission.
Colorado opened the second half with a 6-2 run to cut the deficit to 38-37. The Bluejays then schemed together another run and used a 9-1 burst to take their biggest lead of the afternoon at the time, 50-42. Colorado stayed calm, and after back-to-back baskets in the paint from Sherrod and Wetta, just trailed 50-46 with 4:08 to play in the third quarter.
"Our response was really good," Payne explained. "To regroup at halftime and come out aggressively and have a good third quarter like we did - talking about answering the bell, I thought our team continued to do that."
Hollingshed began to find her groove at the end of the period as well as she scored five straight for the Buffs with a jumper and a 3-pointer. But two 3's from Creighton at the end of the quarter pushed the Bluejays lead out to eight, 61-53, going into the final quarter of play.
Sherrod and the Buffs didn't go away without a fight, as the junior drove to the basket and hit two quick layups to cut Creighton's lead to 63-59. Colorado cut the Bluejay lead to as little as two points 63-61 after a pair of free throws from Miller, and the Buffs were right back in the game.
Colorado continued to battle and get stops, but an intentional foul called on Wetta with 1:28 to go handed Creighton two free-throws and an extra possession that resulted in a four-point swing and a 76-68 Bluejay lead.
Colorado sank a pair of 3's in the final minutes of the game to try to get back into it, but the Bluejays stepped up to the line and shot a combined 12-for-12 from the stripe in the fourth quarter to help them secure the win.
"Overall, we have to look at the things we've been able to accomplish, things we've been able to achieve throughout the season and be grateful for being put in this position," Hollingshed reflected. "You never want to lose, making it this far, but as she [Coach Payne] said there's only one team in the country that will win at the end of their season."
Notes: Colorado is now 17-14 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 2-3 against Creighton...Hollingshed closes her career with 1,681 points (6th), 911 rebounds (6th), 164 3FGM (9th), 629 FGM (6th) and 141 games played (1st)...Colorado won the turnover battle, forcing 15 to its eight...Creighton had the slight edge in rebounding 35-32...Colorado outscored the Bluejays 48-38 in the paint and 15-2 on the fast break...Creighton's bench contributed 41 points, doubling up Colorado's 20.