CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Leading scorer or not, it's always smart to listen to your teammates.
Thanks to a little coaxing by her fellow Buffaloes, freshman forward Arielle Roberson capped off a career-high 25-point performance with a clutch 3-pointer as Colorado rallied for a 69-62 win over Illinois Saturday afternoon at Assembly Hall.
Clinging to a 3-point lead (63-60) with under 40 seconds left sophomore forward Jen Reese had the ball in the paint and kicked it out to the left wing. Roberson held the ball, waiting for the Illinois defense to come to her.
"I was running time off the clock, and I didn't realize how close the shot clock was to running out," Roberson said. "My teammates told me to shoot it,"
And so she did. With the Illini defense leaving her alone on the wing as the shot clock ran down under five ticks, Roberson stepped back and drilled a 3-pointer on the baseline, the lone trey for the Buffaloes in the game, putting the exclamation point on a late 9-0 run and Colorado's 19th straight nonconference regular season win.
Colorado's leading scorer through six games (18.5 ppg), Roberson provided the late heroics, but it was a steady all-involved game for the Buffaloes (6-0) who also received career-best scoring performances from Reese (15) and sophomore Jasmine Sborov (11).
"No one gave up in this game," Reese said. "It's big to go and win on the road. With our team...we have the heart of champions."
Senior guard Chucky Jeffery filled the box score nicely with seven points, three steals and game-high figures with eight rebounds and six assists.
"She's letting the game come to her," said head coach Linda Lappe on Jeffery's performance. "She understands the flow of the game and what our team needs. She's doing a nice job of leading from the point guard position."
The Buffaloes led for most of the first half , but scored just one Roberson free throw in the final 3:50 of the period which allowed the Illini to finish on a 10-1 run and take a 36-30 lead at the break.
But the Buffaloes quickly erased that deficit, as a Brittany Wilson conventional 3-point play sparked a 10-2 run that tied the game at 40 with 14:32 left. From there, Colorado played toe-to-toe with the Illini in a contest that saw 14 lead changes in the second half alone.
"We were resilient," Lappe said. "The game could have gone either way at a lot of different times. (Our juniors and seniors) have been in those scenarios. We just stuck with it and didn't let little things affect us. We kept believing we were going to win and I liked how we pulled it out."
"Even though are shots weren't going down, we defended on the other end and that's what helped us win the game," Reese added.
Illinois reclaimed a 60-57 advantage with 3:00 remaining after All-Big Ten forward Karisma Penn hit a jumper in the lane. Roberson responded on the other end to cut the lead to one. On the next possession, Illinois turned the ball over and Reese gave CU a one-point lead. Jeffery then picked the pocket of Ivory Crawford and went coast-to-coast to put the Buffs up 63-60 with 1:26 left. Another defensive stop set up Roberson's 3-pointer.
It was a good afternoon from Colorado's post players once again. Roberson was 7-of-8 from the field, Reese was 7-of-14 and junior Rachel Hargis hit both her field goal attempts. That effort made up for the Buffaloes making just one of 11 3-point attempts.
"We could have let the fact that we couldn't make an outside shot affect the game," Lappe said. "We took what the defense gave us. Our guards hit our posts in great positions and our posts did a fantastic job of finishing and also getting to the free throw line."
Colorado took advantage of Illinois foul trouble. Penn, who entered the game averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, picked up her fourth foul early in the second half and was limited to 11 points and four boards. Forward Kersten Magrum sat out a large chuck of the second half as well, eventually fouling out with 7:31 still on the clock.
Alexis Smith led Illinois with 17 points, but also had eight of her team's 27 turnovers.
Colorado returns home to host Colorado State on Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 5:50 p.m., at the Coors Events Center. Wednesday is a doubleheader as the CU men also host the Rams at 8:30 p.m.