For the first time in nearly a month, the University of Colorado women’s basketball team returned to the CU Events Center Friday night and when it was all said and done, defeated the visiting USC Trojans, 66-53.
Having played just 15 games in total this season, the Buffs already have eclipsed their win total (12) from the 2018-19 campaign. With two Pac-12 Conference victories less than two weeks into league play, JR Payne’s Buffaloes tied their conference win total from last year, as well.
“Everyone is doing their roles really well and we are all more confident this year,” said senior guard Quinessa Caylao-Do, the lone senior on Colorado’s roster. “Anyone could have a great night any night; it doesn’t matter who, I think we just have a lot of depth on our team.”
The Buffs (13-2, 2-2 Pac-12) found themselves winning their previous game at home, 96-70, against Denver back on Dec. 12, 2019. Five games and twenty-eight days later, CU finally took the court for their first home game of 2020 following a lengthy road trip.
“Everyone is doing their roles really well and we are all more confident this year.”
Quinessa Caylao-Do, senior guard
Both squads came to play with urgency as the Trojans entered play on a three-game losing streak while Colorado came off back to back losses against No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 Oregon State.
“After the Oregon game, I was really disappointed (and) we were kind of shellshocked,” said Payne. “I understood it but I think that as a group we even see that game as a missed opportunity.”
The Buffaloes got the drop on USC early, jumping out to a quick 8-0 lead in just under two minutes of play. However, USC soon settled down and brought the score to 12-6 about halfway through the first quarter.
Neither team had a particularly good first quarter with the Trojans shooting 29% on 5-of-17 from the field while CU shot 32% on 6-of-19. Both squads also only connected on one three-pointer apiece with the Buffs taking seven and USC taking six shots from behind the arc. Colorado would go on to lead 16-15 at the end of the first.
Rebounds played an important role in the Buffaloes’ first half scoring effort, as many of the buckets CU couldn’t manage to put in resulted in offensive rebounds and second-chance points. Along with 17 defensive rebounds, the Buffs secured 12 offensive rebounds for 29 total in the first half.
USC, on the other hand, snagged 17 total rebounds: twelve defensive and five offensive. The Buffaloes went on to finish the game with 50 total rebounds compared to the Trojans’ 31.
“Our effort was great on the glass,” Payne said. “I think everyone knew with (redshirt freshman center) Charlotte (Whittaker) out tonight that we needed to step up in that area because she is such a great rebounder for us, and we did.”
While CU dominated on the boards in the first half, the Buffs let the score get away from them in the last part of the second quarter. The Trojans outscored CU 8-0 in the final 5:25 of the second quarter which put USC on top, 25-23, heading into the locker room.
“The message at halftime was that we basically said we are better than that, we can play better basketball than that and we need to and we are going to,” Payne said. “We needed a more aggressive mindset, offensively, defensively, on the glass and we definitely were able to do that in the second half.”
Points in the paint helped USC edge the Buffs in the first half, as USC’s 18 points to Colorado’s 10 aided the Trojans physically beat CU on the inside.
After halftime, the Buffaloes came steaming out of the locker room, outscoring the Trojans 12-4 in the first three minutes of the third quarter. After back to back three-pointers by Caylao-Do and sophomore guard Emma Clarke, the Trojans quickly called a timeout to stop the bleeding.
“It felt really good (to finally make some baskets),” Clarke said. “I have not been hitting shots in the last three games…in the second half I came out there and kept shooting until one finally dropped.”
Colorado found its offensive groove in the third quarter, scoring 27 points, more than they scored in the entire first half. Sophomore guard Aubrey Knight led the scoring for CU with nine points along with seven rebounds. Trojan senior forward Kayla Overbeck led things for the visitors with ten points and six rebounds.
Heading into the final quarter, the Buffaloes held on to a hearty 50-37 lead.
An unselfish brand of basketball characterized the Buffs’ game with nearly all players who saw playtime scoring points. Three Buffaloes, Caylao-Do, Clarke and freshman guard Jaylyn Sherrod all breached the ten-point mark.
Caylao-Do and Clarke tied for the team lead in points with 13 apiece, while Sherrod added 10 plus seven assists.
“I think everyone did their roles really well,” Clarke said. “We probably could have moved the ball a bit more on offense but everyone played a really good game.”
After a shaky first half, Colorado rallied in the second and earned a comfortable 66-53 win. The Buffaloes will rest for just one day before hosting No. 8 UCLA on Sunday, Jan. 12 at the CU Events Center. Tipoff is at 12 p.m. MST.
“We went down to UCLA last year at home,” Clarke said. “It was a close game so I think we’re going to have to come out and give it everything that we have.”
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Max Troderman at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @mtroderman