The Colorado women’s basketball team hosted No. 21 Arizona State to begin their final two-game homestand of the season. Following a heartbreaking loss to No. 4 Stanford at the buzzer last Sunday, the Buffs suffered their second straight loss, falling 65-59 to the Sun Devils.
Arizona State came into Friday evening’s matchup with the Buffaloes following a successful road trip in Washington, defeating the Cougars and Huskies in a three-day span. Winning away from home is something the Sun Devils have struggled with this season, recording victories in just four of their nine road games coming into Friday’s night’s contest.
Meanwhile, the Buffaloes looked to finish strong in front of their home crowd and position themselves for a postseason berth. Colorado (15-10, 4-10 Pac-12) already bested its wins total from a season ago (12) and secured an above .500 finish with a win over California on Feb. 14.
Colorado won the tip and scored the first bucket of the game courtesy of senior guard Quinessa Caylao-Do. Both teams traded baskets to begin the contest. The Buffs jumped out to an early four-point lead after freshman guard Jaylyn Sherrod found sophomore guard Emma Clarke in transition for an open three.
“It felt good,” Clarke said when asked about her offensive rhythm in the first half. “It was good to be up, but you have to play four quarters of basketball. You can’t just play three.”
The Buffaloes struggled late in the period, failing to score for over three minutes before junior forward Mya Hollingshed knocked down a free throw to end the drought. Sherrod found sophomore forward Peanut Tuitele for a three that banked in off the glass. Colorado’s lead grew to six at the end of the first quarter.
Arizona State trimmed the Colorado lead to one midway through the second quarter when senior guard Robbi Ryan knocked down a three pointer as the shot clock expired. Caylao-Do responded for CU with a floater in the paint.
Sherrod struggled from the field in the first half but proved to be an offensive catalyst with her passing. The freshman from Birmingham, Ala. recorded a team-high five assists after 20 minutes. Clarke, the beneficiary of Sherrod’s vision in transition, scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the first half.
Arizona State finished the second quarter on a 7-0 run and led by six at the break. The Sun Devils shot 58 percent from the field and hit five threes to help take a lead into the locker room.
Turnovers diminished Colorado’s offensive efficiency and allowed the Sun Devils to maintain a slim lead for a majority of the third quarter.
Head coach JR Payne alluded to the turnovers and the inability to convert at the rim as reasons why the Buffs were unable to come out with a win.
“We just didn’t get the shots we wanted when we needed them,” Payne said. “And the ones we did get that we wanted we weren’t able to finish at the basket. Too many turnovers, against a great basketball team it’s going to be hard to win when you turn the ball over 19 times.”
An offensive rebound and put back from Caylao-Do gave the Buffs their first lead since the later stages of the first half. The turnovers mounted for the Sun Devils coming out of the break which allowed Colorado to take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter after sophomore guard Lesila Finau banked in a three at the buzzer.
Sherrod provided a spark early in fourth after stripping the ball from a Sun Devil and earning a Colorado possession. The Buffs’ edge on the glass somewhat offset their inability to take care of the ball. Colorado out rebounded Arizona State 27-13.
Payne applauded Colorado’s effort on the glass after the game, especially given the Sun Devils are atop the conference in rebounding.
“I thought we battled, I thought in a lot of ways we really executed the game plan from a rebounding standpoint,” Payne said. “To out rebound this team, there one of the best rebounding teams in the country, and hold them to four offensive rebounds is pretty spectacular.”
A three pointer from Ryan extended the Arizona State lead to four, forcing a Colorado timeout with 1:21 remaining. Caylao-Do used a Tuitele screen to get to the basket for an easy two following the timeout. Senior guard Reili Richardson splashed home a three on the ensuing Sun Devil possession. The lead increased to five with 40 seconds remaining.
Sherrod drove hard and scored, drawing a foul on freshman forward Eboni Walker. She failed to convert at the line. Arizona State led by three with less than 30 seconds to play. A pair of free throws from Ryan put the nail in the coffin for the Buffs. Arizona State defeated Colorado 65-59.
For the Buffaloes, it’s yet another frustrating, close loss against one of the better teams in the conference. For Payne and the players, suffering successive close losses is starting to get old.
“I’m tired of this,” Payne said. “I’m tired of being in these games and losing close games to teams that, on paper, are supposed to be better than you. Although we feel we can compete with anybody. Then you go, ‘If we had just done this or that, it would have been a different outcome.’ Everybody is pretty ticked off honestly because we work so hard.”
Up next, Colorado hosts No. 11 Arizona for senior day. The Buffs hope to send Caylao-Do out with a win in her final game at the CU Events Center. Tip off is set for 12 p.m. MST.
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