Colorado wasn’t going to be denied this time.
Not after two heart-breakers in the last week, and certainly not on senior day.
After several excruciating losses to the cream of the crop in the Pac-12 this season, the CU women’s basketball team dominated the fourth quarter to upset No. 11 Arizona, 50-38, on Sunday at CU Events Center.
The Buffs (16-11, 5-11 Pac-12) snapped a 32-game losing streak to Associated Press-ranked opponents, dating back to a 79-69 win against No. 15 Kentucky on Nov. 19, 2016.
“It’s incredible,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “It’s really hard to describe. I don’t know if it would feel as good if we hadn’t had such heartbreaking losses, but to see us grow in ways that we know we’re capable of and to really finish the game was pretty awesome.”
CU had lost four times this season by eight points or less to ranked opponents. That included a crushing, buzzer-beating loss to then-No. 8 Stanford a week earlier at home and Friday’s six-point loss to 21 Arizona State. In both games, the Buffs held fourth quarter leads.
On Sunday, Amari Carter hit a 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 35 seconds left to give Arizona (22-5, 11-5) a 38-35 lead. Arizona, which played without star Aari McDonald, didn’t score again, as the Buffs closed the game on a 15-0 run.
“I think in the past games that we’ve had on these close ones, the last five or six minutes, we’re kind of playing on the not-aggressive end, so we kind of shoot ourselves in the foot in that we’re trying not to make mistakes and then we end up changing the trajectory of the game,” sophomore Aubrey Knight said. “In this game, we were like, ‘Ok, we need to take smart shots and we need to get stops.’ We always talk about how defense helps our offense. When we’re playing good defense, it helps us do better on the offensive end and that’s definitely what happened down the stretch.”
Jaylyn Sherrod had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists, while Knight posted 10 points and eight rebounds. CU’s lone senior, Quinessa Caylao-Do, finished with four points and two assists and keyed the Buffs’ defensive effort in her final regular season home game.
Mya Hollingshed finished with eight points and 13 rebounds and drilled a key 3-pointer with 2:06 to play to increase the lead to 44-38. That was the only 3-pointer of the game for CU.
“For me personally, I think it was a big relief just because I finally found a 3 that went in,” Hollingshed said. “I told the team that we couldn’t breathe just yet because we had to finish out the game and we had to get some key stops. We locked down defensively.”
CU’s defense was exceptional all afternoon. The Buffs dominated the boards with a 48-27 advantage, including 16-7 in the fourth quarter. They held Arizona to 24.5 percent shooting (13-for-53) and the Wildcats went through scoring droughts of 4:05, 7:01 and 6:35.
Arizona missed its last 10 shots of the game and its 38 points were the fewest ever scored by a ranked team against the Buffs.
“We know that we’re capable of being a great defensive ball club,” Payne said. “It shows that we’re really capable of defending and I think these guys will use that moving forward to know that when we need a stop and we dig in and really communicate, we can get stops.”
Now they also know they can not only compete with elite teams, but beat them – and do it by making big-time plays in crunch time.
“The coolest thing for me tonight was to watch our team literally growing before our eyes as the clock is ticking,” Payne said. “They’re growing; they’re doing the things that we talked about in our other close games; they’re staying together; they’re communicating in ways we’ve talked about. Just wildly proud of these guys and so excited for them.
“It means a lot for us. All of those (close losses) meant a lot for our growth as a program, but to be able to actually finish one out and win it I think is just really huge. For these guys to do it on senior night and for a senior that they really truly love is really neat, as well.”
Prior to Sunday, the fewest points against CU by a ranked opponent came in a 61-45 win against Kansas on March 6, 1995. … This was the fewest by any CU opponent since a 79-38 win against a Prairie View A&M on Dec. 12, 2018. … Sherrod had four assists, giving her 142 for the season. She moved into a tie with Shelley Sheetz for third-best total by a CU freshman. She passed Kennedy Leonard (139 in 2015-16) on Sunday. …
What went right: CU’s defense was dominant, holding Arizona to 24.5 percent shooting. The Buffs also kept the Wildcats off the glass, with a 48-27 advantage. Down the stretch, the Buffs were particularly sound on both ends of the floor.
What went wrong: The Buffs had 16 turnovers, which led to 16 Arizona points and they were a dismal 13-for-25 from the free throw line.
Star of the game: Aubrey Knight. The sophomore had one of the best games of her career, with 10 points, eight rebounds, two steals and exceptional defense.
What’s next: The Buffs visit No. 8 UCLA on Friday.
COLORADO 50, NO. 11 ARIZONA 38
ARIZONA (22-5)McBryde 3-10 0-0 6, Reese 1-11 3-4 5, Thomas 2-9 2-2 7, Alonso 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 4-10 2-2 12, Smith 1-2 0-0 2, Mote 0-2 0-0 0, Pueyo 2-9 0-0 6, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 13-53 7-8 38COLORADO (16-11)Tuitele 3-6 0-0 6, Caylao-Do 1-6 2-4 4, Clarke 3-7 0-2 6, Hollingshed 3-7 1-2 8, Sherrod 2-10 8-13 12, Jank 0-0 0-0 0, Whittaker 2-5 0-0 4, Volcy 0-0 0-0 0, Finau 0-1 0-0 0, Knight 4-5 2-4 10, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 18-47 13-25 50Arizona 8 11 12 7 — 38Colorado 11 8 10 21 — 503-Point Goals – Arizona 5-20 (McBryde 0-4, Reese 0-2, Thomas 1-4, Carter 2-5, Pueyo 2-5), Colorado 1-14 (Tuitele 0-1, Caylao-Do 0-1, Clarke 0-3, Hollingshed 1-4, Sherrod 0-3, Whittaker 0-1, Finau 0-1). Assists – Arizona 7 (Thomas 3), Colorado 10 (Sherrod 4). Fouled Out – None. Rebounds – Arizona 27 (Reese 6), Colorado 48 (Hollingshed 13). Total Fouls – Arizona 20, Colorado 13. Technical Fouls – None. A – 3,085.