In a battle of unbeaten teams, the Colorado Buffaloes outlasted the Pepperdine Waves by a score of 80-65 on Tuesday in the CU Events Center.
Playing their third game in five nights, Colorado managed to find enough energy to put together an impressive 52 percent performance from the field to pick up a hard fought win.
CU got off to good start thanks to senior guard, Kennedy Leonard, who had a double-double with 18 points and a season high 10 assists. Leonard racked up seven of her assists in the first quarter, which was key to the Buffs getting an early lead.
Along with setting up her teammates, Leonard was also a presence on the glass with seven rebounds.
“We challenged Ken (Leonard) with her role this year and asked her to have more presence on the glass because we feel that she is capable of being a good rebounder,” said head coach JR Payne. “In the last two games, she has had seven rebounds in each game. That is something that Ken is taking seriously and personally. It is showing in the box score.”
After being forced to burn their first timeout at the 3:33 mark when the Buffs went up 16-9, Pepperdine responded with a quick six points to cut the deficit to 22-15 at the end of the quarter.
The first period would set the tone of how both teams wanted to score. With sixteen points in the paint, the Buffaloes consistently looked to attack inside.
Pepperdine, on the other hand, built the offense around shooting and scored 13 of their 15 first quarter points from jump shots.
The start of the second quarter was headlined by freshman forward Peanut Tuitele, who scored Colorado’s first four points of the quarter with two layups.
“Our scout was saying their post-game wasn’t as strong as the competitors we faced before,” Tuitele said after the game. “Definitely I took advantage of that and ducked in. Credit to my guards for feeding me the ball.”
Tuitele got the start over sophomore Annika Jank and took advantage of the opportunity with an 18 point and six rebound night.
Pepperdine continued to fight and the Buffs had no answer for Waves senior forward Yasmine Robinson-Bacote, who nailed four three-pointers. Pepperdine continued to chip away at CU’s lead by grabbing seven offensive rebounds, which helped them get to the free throw line four times. Aided by five Buffs turnovers, they finished the half only down 43-38 and went into the locker room with momentum.
While Colorado’s inside game was strong all night, their three-point shooting was not. They entered the second half only shooting 1-9 from behind the arc and would go on to miss all three of their attempts in the second half.
Pepperdine stayed hot in the third quarter with four more three-pointers. Robinson-Bacote added two more threes to her 25 point performance.
After giving up a three to Waves senior guard Paige Fecske, with 5:49 in the third, the Buffs found themselves trailing for the first time in the game. Thanks to two trips to the foul line and baskets by Leonard and junior guard Mathilde Diop, CU briefly held a three point lead with under 20 seconds remaining, but Robinson-Bacote scored before the buzzer to tie the game at 58 heading into the fourth.
After surviving Pepperdine’s surge in the third, Colorado opened the fourth quarter with a massive 12-0 run. The run was the result of CU switching to a zone defense down the stretch.
“Coach T told us to go into a zone and I think there were a lot of veterans on the floor and Peanut as well, but we work on zone every day,” said Leonard. “Our zone is kind of unorthodox so we kind of do do different things. Just those looks and what they were running against.”
The Buffs held Pepperdine scoreless for the first six minutes of the final quarter and forced six turnovers in the process. The Waves had no answer and could only muster seven points in the last four minutes.
“We expected a battle,” said Payne in the post game press conference. “We knew that we were capable of beating this team, but we knew it wouldn’t be easy. It certainly wasn’t. We defended, rebounded and executed down the stretch to get the win. It was a good win by our team tonight.”
Colorado lead by as much as 16 in the fourth and finished with a final score of 80-65.
Up next for the Buffs is a road game in Miami against the No. 21 ranked Hurricanes on Sunday, December 2 at 11 a.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Griffin Rucker at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @GriffinRucker.