CU Women’s Basketball: Buffs’ Fourth-Quarter Slump Helps No. 8 Cardinal Coast To 64-51 Win

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PALO ALTO, Calif. – After going toe-to-toe with No. 8 Stanford for three quarters, the Colorado women’s basketball team stumbled badly in the fourth and lost 64-51 here Friday night at Maples Pavilion.

Down only 46-44 entering the final period the Buffaloes were outscored 16-2 over the next 7:51, denying them the chance to break a Pac-12 Conference road losing streak that reached 16 and dates to the 2014-15 season.

CU (13-11 overall, 3-10 Pac-12) has not beaten Stanford (21-4, 11-2) since the 2002 NCAA Tournament.

“Our effort was tremendous,” CU coach JR Payne said, adding that rebounding had been emphasized but was an area that her team fell short in. “We talked about the importance of rebounding, but we just didn’t rebound . . . we played 12 people, and only four had a single rebound. Our rebounding effort was not there tonight.”

Stanford won the board battle 47-33, including 18-10 on the offensive glass.

Brittany McPhee, who scored 18 points in the Cardinal’s 84-70 win in Boulder last month, led all scorers and rebounders Friday night with a double-double – 26 points, 11 boards. Erica McCall added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Payne said defending McPhee more successfully “could start by limiting her effort on the offensive glass . . . do that and we could contain her a little better.”

CU had only two players in double figures – Makenzie Ellis (14) and Ariana Freeman (10). Freeman also grabbed a team-best seven rebounds.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Both teams were frigid in the first quarter – Stanford hitting just 4-of-15 from the field (27 percent) and CU only 3-of-12 (25 percent). And at quarter’s end, the score – 9-9 – reflected that frigidity. Stanford’s total was a season low.

For the Buffs, the opening period’s most disconcerting stat was Leonard picking up her second foul and heading for the bench with 3:32 left in the quarter. But she opened the second quarter and wound up playing 15 first-half minutes, although scoring only two points.

But Leonard had all five of CU’s first-half assists, underscoring her importance to the offense even if she wasn’t scoring. She got two more second-half assists — accounting for the Buffs’ seven for the night.

CU led by as many as eight points in the second quarter and was ahead 27-24 at halftime, bringing to mind the one-point advantage (42-41) the Buffs held over the Cardinal last month in Boulder. To get that eight-point bulge, CU opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run, fueled by a pair of treys from Ellis. Her nine first-half points – she was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc – led both teams.

In Stanford’s win in Boulder, the Cardinal outscored the Buffs 9-2 to open the third quarter and ultimately pulled away to win by 14 points. After playing sound defense in Friday night’s first half – Stanford was held to 39 percent from the field (11-of-28) – CU couldn’t allow the home team a similar second-half start.

The Buffs got the second-half start they wanted, using the early 3-point shooting of Ellis and Alexis Robinson to go up 37-31 with 6:31 left in the third quarter.

The Cardinal responded with a 12-2 run, with McPhee getting 10 of those points, to regain the lead for the first time since 6-5. The Buffs rallied behind Leonard to close out the period, with the sophomore guard scoring CU’s final five points.

Her pair of free throws with 8 seconds left in the quarter gave CU a 44-43 lead. But McCall, who had hit only two of her previous 10 shots, sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to push Stanford ahead 46-44 entering the final quarter.

With 10 minutes remaining, McCall’s trey shouldn’t have been a dagger – but maybe it was. Stanford opened the fourth period with a 7-0 run – 10-0 counting McCall’s triple to end the third – and took its largest lead of the game at 53-44.

Trying to regroup, CU took a timeout with 7:35 to play but a McPhee layup pushed Stanford’s run to 12-0 and its advantage to 55-44 before an Ellis lay-in stopped the Buffs’ swoon.

But the damage had been done. With CU’s offense stagnant and its defense wearing down, Stanford went ahead by 16 points (62-46) with 2:09 to play.

The Buffs didn’t get their second field goal of the quarter until Quinessa Caylao-Do hit a layup, then added a free throw with 1:55 remaining. The Cardinal’s surge had reached 16-2 before her 3-point play, and by then it was over.

TURNING POINT: The Buffs didn’t get their first points of the fourth quarter until it was almost halfway over, then didn’t score again for almost 4 minutes. The Cardinal capitalized with a 16-2 run to open the period and won going away.

CU STANDOUTS: Ellis hit 4-of-5 3-pointers and was 5-of-10 from the field . . . . Freeman was 5-of-9 from the field, and her 7 rebounds were a team best . . . . Leonard had all of CU’s assists – seven.

KEY STATISTICS: CU was outrebounded by 14 (47-33) and outshot 40-33 percent from the field . . . . McPhee (26 points, 11 rebounds) gives the Buffs fits; she scored 18 points in the Cardinal’s 84-70 win in Boulder.

WHAT IT MEANS: Once again, anything less than a solid 40 minutes won’t cut it in the Pac-12 – and particularly not against Stanford. CU was competitive and might even sensed an upset until the fourth quarter began. But the final 10 minutes were all Stanford, negating the 23:15 that the Buffs were in the lead.

NOTEWORTHY: CU senior Lauren Huggins saw her first action of the 2016-17 season Friday night, entering the game with 5:48 remaining in the first quarter and played four minutes in the opening half. She had been sidelined with a leg injury . . . . Ellis also led the Buffs in scoring in their last game, hitting a career-high 18 points . . . . Haley Smith fouled out in the final quarter, hurting the Buffs with the loss of her overall contributions. She finished with four points and four rebounds . . . . Stanford’s nine points in the first quarter were its fewest scored in the first quarter this season (10 vs. Oregon State, Jan. 8) . . . . CU is now 1-4 when leading at halftime in Pac-12 play . . . . CU has now lost 12 in a row to Stanford and is 0-12 in the series since joining the Pac-12.

QUOTEWORTHY:
Colorado Coach JR Payne
General thoughts on the game
“I’m proud of the fact that we played really hard. We competed with a such a good team. I’m just really disappointed in our rebounding effort against a team that’s a good rebounding team. We talked about it all week long and the need to do our job from a rebounding standpoint and we just didn’t do it. I think even though we competed and played really hard, that was the difference in the ballgame.”

On feeling like it was a lost opportunity
“What an opportunity to come to Maples and play one of the best teams in the nation and to lead for three quarters and just to even be in the ballgame with Stanford here on this day with this tea– It was just a huge opportunity missed…the first part of conference we were great in the first half and really bad in the second half. And now we’ve been better in the second half and now we play three quarters and blow it in the fourth quarter. Eventually we’ve got to put 40 minutes together and win one of these games.”

On what happened in the fourth quarter to let Stanford pull away
“Stanford was down for three quarters of this game, but they stayed positive, they never hung their heads, they continued to compete. They celebrated good things, they dug their heels in when they needed to and I think that’s a championship culture. That’s a team with leaders, a team that knew in their hearts whether they were going to win or lose. They believed they were going to win that ballgame, even after losing the first three quarters. And I saw on the flip side, our team, as soon as things started to go against us a little bit, we fell apart. And I think some of that is leadership, or experience. Clearly Stanford has a tremendous culture and seniors and all of that stuff.”

On what Brittany McPhee did to cause so much trouble for CU
“She’s obviously really athletic. I thought the biggest thing that we could’ve done, other than–she’s a great player, so she’s hard to contain–but I thought we could’ve done a better job keeping her off the glass. Five [offensive]boards leads to the putbacks, leads to getting to the free throw line. That’s something that we’re capable of doing, is containing her on the glass.”
“McPhee did exactly what the scout said she does–she’s aggressive, she’s athletic, she’s good on the glass. She did all of that tonight and we were not able to stop her.”

On if limiting Erica McCall was part of the game plan
“We really were trying to play personnel accordingly, so trying to keep McCall out of the [block area], which I think we did a pretty good job of. We ran a double team at her once in awhile, which I thought was effective. We really were just trying to play personnel well.”

On how hard it is to keep the defense motivated to play defense so hard
“Toriano [Towns] coaches our defense and he does a great job of instilling just a really gritty mentality. I don’t know that we have a lot of really gritty players, but they have bought into being gritty on the defensive side of the ball and we’re playing aggressively. We’re getting them to play with active hands, we get our hands on a lot of balls. And I think that our team has bought into the fact that that can help us offensively. We don’t have a lot of natural scorers on our roster. We don’t have a lot of people that came out of high school with 3,000 points. So we have to be able to create offense with our defense and our team has really bought into that.”

On how other upsets in the Pac-12 tonight can help motivate the team
“We come out every game and play hard and we’re in every single game. We’re there. It’s just when adversity strikes, which undoubtedly it will against any team, is when we don’t necessarily have that cohesiveness that we need to just really dig our heels in, get stops, get a bucket, get to the free throw line, those kind of things. I don’t think we feel like we are out of it. Our team genuinely believes we can play with anybody. It certainly [would]feel good to get one of these wins against one of these great teams and we’re continuing to battle, which I’m proud of.”

NEXT UP: The Buffs play at Cal on Sunday afternoon (4 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Networks, ESPN radio, 1600 am).

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