BOULDER - Next stop: San Antonio for a pair of holiday tournament games. Then, after a Christmas break, it's on to Salt Lake City, Seattle and Pullman, Wash., to open the Pac-12 Conference. Home has been comfy and cozy for the University of Colorado women's basketball team, but it will be almost mid-January before the Buffaloes play again in the Coors Events Center.
The road beckons, and the Buffs will hit it hard.
But on Saturday afternoon, they finished off a six-game home stand with a 77-59 wrecking of Weber State, running their record to 9-0 for only the third time in program history. Momentum generated at home should serve the Buffs well, said coach Linda Lappe: "We always want to make sure we play solid at home. (Saturday) was our last time for about a month (the next home game is Jan. 12 vs. California) . . . we want to end out the non-conference portion of our season on a strong note."
The Buffs did as Lappe wished Saturday, playing what she called their most well-executed first half of the season and leading by 20 (44-24) at intermission. The Wildcats closed to within 12 in the last half's first 10 minutes, but CU refocused, rebuilt its lead to 22 (68-46) and cruised to its ninth consecutive victory. The 1992-93 Buffs opened that season with 15 consecutive wins.
CU senior Julie Seabrook recorded her third career double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and received scoring assistance from three teammates in double figures. Chuck Jeffery led all scorers with 17 points, while Brittany and Ashley Wilson contributed 13 each. Ashley Wilson's total was a career high.
"It was exciting," Seabrook said of her performance. "I'm glad we got it in the paint - that was one of our goals."
The Wilson twins, both sophomores, were elated to have identical double-figure games. But Brittany was particularly proud for Ashley. "You've seen her battle adversity," Brittany said. "Just to see her finally come along and get over the injuries and play how we all know she can play, it really feels good."
"It was fun," added Ashley. "We were all sharing the ball a lot."
'Tis the season to share, and the Buffs did with 16 assists on their 34 field goals. They also forced 16 Wildcats turnovers, scoring 21 points off of those errors. They out-rebounded the visitors by 10 (48-38) and they demolished Weber State in the paint, 52-12.
To be fair, the Wildcats lost their second-leading scorer (10.3) and top rebounder (7.5) in the game's first 3 minutes. Mikell Woodfield, a 6-2 senior, left with an ankle injury and didn't return.
Weber State's afternoon delight was hitting 11-of-29 three-point attempts - the most treys the Buffs have allowed this season. Lappe credited Weber State, coached by former CU assistant Bethann Ord, for its marksmanship - but that nod of approval came with a caveat.
Defensively, Lappe's team entered the game concentrating on taking away one-on-one drives and overall lane penetration. Denied those avenues, the Wildcats stepped outside and began firing.
"We could have played with our hands higher," Lappe said, "but we knew they really hurt teams getting to the rim. But give Weber State credit . . . eleven of twenty nine, almost 40 percent - they were knocking it down. I've never seen them shoot that well, but they did."
Ord, whose team left Boulder at 2-10, said shooting that many treys "wasn't anything we really emphasized before. But my team is a pretty good shooting team and we have a lot of sharp shooters."
A CU assistant from 2005-07, Ord called CU "a very good team . . . they deserve a lot of credit."
The Wildcats scored their first nine points on three-pointers, and after their second trey owned a 6-2 lead - marking the Buffs' largest deficit this season. It wasn't much and it didn't last.
CU tied the visitors twice (6-6, 9-9) before going ahead to stay on a Seabrook put-back that put the Buffs up 11-9 with 14:53 remaining before halftime.
That basket launched a 19-2 CU run, and before Weber State could score again the Buffs were in command, 25-11. They led by as many as 21 points (42-21) in the half's last 8 minutes and took a 20-point lead (44-24) to the locker room.
Jeffery continued her torrid shooting, hitting seven of her 10 first-half field goal attempts for 15 of her total. She also contributed four of CU's nine first-half assists.
The Buffs turned sloppy in the second half's first 31/2 minutes, committing four turnovers, losing their defensive intensity and their 20-point halftime lead.
A 7-0 Wildcats run brought them to within 13 (48-35) with 15:53 to play and a three-pointer by Shawnte Taylor cut the Buffs' advantage to a dozen (50-38) at the 12:41 mark.
Back-to-back baskets - one of them a trey - by Laura Palmere, a sophomore guard from Lakewood (Mullen), kept the Wildcats' deficit at 12 before the Buffs went on an 11-1 spurt and suddenly had their largest lead of the game (68-46) with 6:47 left.
The run's anatomy: Meagan Malcolm-Peck (eight points, five rebounds, four assists in 26 minutes) opened it with a conventional three-point play, Brittany Wilson followed with a shot from behind the arc, Seabrook scored inside and Ashley Wilson converted a traditional three-point play.
Weber State kept battling, closing the deficit to 14 twice in the final 3 minutes to play, but could come no closer.
"We knew they were a team that is not going to give up and would fight to the end," Seabrook said. "We kind of let them come (back) and then we're like 'we've got to get back to our defensively principles' - and that definitely helped us. When we focused back in we got back on the right track."
Losing focus won't benefit the Buffs in San Antonio, where they play Texas-Pan American on Tuesday and Creighton on Wednesday. Lappe is cautioning her team not to overlook the first opponent for the second, which she says will offer the Buffs their sternest test to date.
Creighton, said Lappe, "will probably be the best team we've played . . . a really a solid team. They move the ball well, they're well-coached, they know their system, they can shoot the three and their post players can drive."
Is that all? No.
Added Lappe: "They will switch screens if they need to switch screens and they play hard."
The back-to-back road games will offer a glimpse of Pac-12 life, which Lappe believes "will be good for us. It's similar to what we'll see in the conference . . . The time we are down in Texas (the Buffs leave Sunday, return Thursday) is going to be the same amount of time we are gone for our conference road trips . . . my assistants joke that we're going to have to really like each other in order to be on the road together for so long."
The way things are going now for the Buffs - 9-0 a week before Christmas and feeling festive about themselves - what's not to like? It's so far, so good. Keep it going and it only gets better.