BOULDER—The University of Colorado women’s basketball team opened the second half on a 18-6 run to put away instate foe Northern Colorado, taking home a 54-42 win in the first round of the 2012 Women’s NIT here Wednesday night at the Coors Events Center.
The Buffs (19-13) used a balanced offensive attack and stellar team defense to advance in the tournament for the second straight season. Four Buffaloes scored either nine or 10 points while the Buffs held the Bears (20-12) leading scorer D’Shara Strange to just two points on an 0-of-10 shooting performance.
"At this point of the season, you learn that any win is a good win," CU head coach Linda Lappe said. "Even though we didn't play our best we ended up playing good enough to win and you don't take wins for granted."
"It was good to get a win," senior Julie Seabrook said. "Obviously we will work on the stuff we need to work on the rest of this week and get ready for the second round."
Northern Colorado’s only lead was erased by the Buffaloes one minute into the game, as the Bears took a quick 2-0 lead before the Buffs scored the game’s next 11 points over a six minute span. That 11-0 run was spurred by junior Chucky Jeffery, who hit two layups, and Seabrook, who made 3-of-4 from the line.
The Bears then whittled away at the lead the remainder of the first half, getting the game within four points at 15-11 with a Molly Duehn 3-pointer with 8:20 left in the half and keeping it close the remainder of the half. After cutting the CU lead to three at 21-18 with under two minutes remaining, freshman Lexy Kresl sent the Buffs to the locker room on a high note.
She hit her first 3-pointer of the game with just :05 left on the first half clock. It was her first 3-pointer of the game and tied the CU freshman season record of 57 set previously by CU legends Brittany Spears and Shelley Sheetz.
The Buffs took full advantage of Kresl’s first-half momentum, opening the second half on that 18-6 run spanning the first 10 minutes of the game with most of the credit going to the defense. Kresl hit her second 3-pointer of the game in that run to set a new CU freshman record. That run gave CU a 42-24 lead but to their credit, the Bears didn’t give up.
"We knew they weren't going to go away," Brittany Wilson said. "They want to be the premier school in Colorado just as much as we do. We had to come out and put a dagger in them early. I was proud of the fact that we did do that, it says a lot about this team."
"The start of the second half was the key to the game," Lappe said. "We knew we had to come right out of the half and throw the first punch, be aggressive and I thought we did that. I thought we were out-hustled in the first half, so I wanted to change our mentality, step up and be aggressive."
Turning up their own defense, the Bears cut CU’s lead to 10 points at 50-40 with 1:20 left, but freshman Jasmine Sborov hit the boards and then hit 4-of-4 free throws in the final minute to keep the game double figures.
Brittany Wilson and Kresl led the way with 10 points while Seabrook and Jeffery added nine apiece. Each of the five CU starters grabbed five or more boards, led by Jeffery’s eight.
The Bears did force CU into 27 turnovers with 23 steals in the game while CU record 10 steals off of the Bears’ 22 turnovers. CU held UNC to a 14-of-53 (26.4 percent) shooting performance, allowing just seven UNC field goals in each half.
"Our turnovers were frustrating," Wilson said. "But we focused on the defensive side of the court and we held them to 45 points, which is the reason we won."
"You have to give Northern Colorado credit, they are a very good defensive team," Lappe added. "We knew it was going to be a struggle to score. I didn't know we were going to have 27 turnovers this late in the season but at the same time, we didn't know who we were playing until yesterday and didn't have a lot of time to prepare."
Lappe and the Buffs recorded their 19th win of the season, surpassing last year’s total of 18 as Lappe is now 37-29 as CU’s head coach in the past two seasons.
"We have 19 wins and some have been good and some not so good," Lappe said. "But a win is a win. I'm proud of our team for stepping up and knocking down our free throws, I thought that was a huge positive for us and something we've been struggled with."
The Buffs finished the game shooting 19-of-25 (76 percent) from the line, which included Sborov's four clutch from the charity stripe in the final minute.
Next up for Colorado will be a second round match-up between the winner of South Dakota and Drake, who will square off Thursday in Vermillion, S.D. Game date, time and location will not be announced until after that game is over.