BOULDER - Explosive starts are beginning to become the norm for the Colorado women's basketball team. And with Big 12 Conference play rapidly approaching, that's a very good trend to be setting.
For the second consecutive game, the Buffaloes sprinted to a decisive halftime lead, then maintained most of their aggressiveness in the second half en route to an impressive victory.
On Tuesday night at the Coors Events Center, CU's strong opening act laid the groundwork for an 86-50 demolition of San Jose State in the second game of a men's/women's doubleheader.
"We had a great first half," CU coach Kathy McConnell-Miller said. "We executed our game plan as to how we were going to defend their sets . . . we handled their sets."
Junior Brittany Spears and senior Bianca Smith handled the bulk of the Buffs scoring, riddling the Spartans for 28 and 25 points, respectively.
"I know I like a heck of a lot about this team," McConnell-Miller said. "I definitely feel like I have one of the best players in the Big 12 and one of the best shooters."
Spears' 28 points were the most scored by a CU player this season, and Smith's 25 were her season-best.
"I'm much more confident than in my previous two years," Spears said, noting that her demanding off-season work is paying off.
Smith again came off the bench - a role she's finding increasingly productive.
"My teammates are able to find me on the floor for open shots," she said, adding she believes she's able to capitalize on opponents being tired while she enters the game fresh.
Smith's 25 allowed CU's bench to outscore San Jose State's reserves 32-20.
The Buffs' defense also did its part, accounting for double-digit steals (13) for the sixth time in 10 games. CU got 18 fast-break points to the visitors' four.
Improving to 8-2, CU is off until Grambling State visits the Events Center on Dec. 30 (7 p.m.). Players will break from Dec. 23-26, resuming practice late on Dec. 27.
Two more home games - Jan. 2 vs. Virginia and Jan. 4 vs. Yale - are on tap before league play begins on Jan. 9 vs. Missouri.
In their previous game - an 88-36 blowout of Southern Utah four nights earlier - the Buffs bolted to a 24-0 lead, then went up 40-4 and 49-5 before going to the locker room with a 53-11 halftime lead.
That big advantage at intermission must have been gratifying and worth trying to duplicate, for the Buffs fashioned a 46-13 halftime bulge against the Spartans.
The 24 combined first-half points yielded to Southern Utah and San Jose State was the lowest ever for CU, coming in below the 27 allowed in back-to-back first halves in the 2001-02 season to San Diego State (18) and Bowling Green (9).
McConnell-Miller attributed her team's consecutive fast starts to her and her staff introducing more concepts to her players and giving them more rest on game day.
Then, there's the built-in energy of playing at home, where the Buffs are 7-0 this season.
After CU scored the first four points Tuesday night, San Jose State coach Pam DeCosta called a timeout to settle her troops.
The short time together didn't help.
Before the Spartans and DeCosta, a former student at Mesa State and Metro State, could digest what was transpiring, the Buffs had gone up 17-3 and were in control of the opening half behind the torrid Spears (20) and Smith (17).
"We got intimidated," DeCosta said. "That is not who we are. Colorado came out and didn't do anything special, we just didn't show up . . . there's not too much more to say about it."
Spears hit seven of her 10 first-half field goal attempts, five-of-six free throws and adding a pair of steals in only 14 minutes. Not to be outdone, Smith canned seven of her 11 shots from the field, including four of nine three-point attempts.
Defensively, the Buffs tormented the Spartans, recording 11 of their 13 steals in the first-half and adding two of their five blocked shots. The visitors shot just 20.8 percent from the field (5-of-24) in falling behind by 33 points at the break and finished at 32.8 percent (20-of-61) from the field.
Rather than back off after intermission, CU once again started at full speed and rolled to a 53-19 advantage in the second half's first 5 minutes.
By the halfway point, CU had increased its advantage to 63-25, and San Jose State was zapped. The Spartans, in the midst of a five road games, dropped to 3-8.