DENVER - The unbeaten University of Colorado women's basketball team shook off a lethargic start, took control with an 8-0 run and never looked back in dispatching the University of Denver 83-63 here Tuesday night.
Now the Buffaloes can look ahead. Finally, they can focus on their biggest non-conference game - a Friday night date with No. 8 Louisville at the Coors Events Center. The Cardinals are 9-1, with their lone loss by one point (48-47) to archrival Kentucky.
"We feel really good with where we're at," CU coach Linda Lappe said of her team's 8-0 start. "We've seen a little of everything. Obviously Louisville will present a few different things we haven't seen and a different level of talent. But we're excited for it; it should be a really fun game. Hopefully we can get a crowd there. Our players have really been looking forward to this for a long time."
In winning for only the second time in Denver against the Pioneers, the Buffs got a season-high 19 points from Brittany Wilson and 14 points and 11 rebounds from Chucky Jeffery. Leading scorer Arielle Roberson, who entered the game with a 17.3-point average, added 11.
Morgan Van Riper-Rose kept the Pioneers close with 13 first-half points. She finished with a career-high 28
DU defeated CU 70-69 in their most recent Magness Arena matchup on Nov. 16, 2010. The Buffs lead the series 6-2 and won for the third time this season against a Front Range opponent. Before making the trip down I-25 South, CU had beaten Wyoming (68-59) and Colorado State (72-46) in Boulder.
Tuesday's first half produced 11 lead changes, but they all occurred in the first 10 minutes. DU (4-5) took advantage of CU's sluggish start to go ahead by as many as five points (13-8) before the visitors roused themselves.
"It shouldn't have been like that, because it shows that we weren't ready," Jeffery said. "It should be flipped because (Louisville) was on our minds. We have to be prepared."
If it took a little longer for the Buffs to focus, once they got there they took command and made an 18-17 deficit their last of the game. They went on an 8-0 run, getting baskets from Jamee Swan, Roberson (her first of the game), Jeffery and Brittany Wilson on a fast-break assist from Jeffery to go up 25-18 at 6:22 before intermission.
From there until the halftime buzzer, CU increased its lead to 10 on two occasions and led 37-27 at the break. CU outscored DU 9-1 to open the second half and surge ahead 46-28. The Buffs didn't allow the Pioneers their first field goal of the last 20 minutes until the 14:07 mark.
A minute later, CU went up by 23 and wouldn't allow DU within 15 points the rest of the night. The Buffs led by as many as 26 points in the final 4 minutes.
Lappe said the surge to open the final 20 minutes was "the key to the game . . . we got kick started toward the end of the first half and I really enjoyed how we came out of halftime."
She also enjoyed her team getting 50 rebounds for a second consecutive game. The Buffs out-boarded the Pioneers 50-28.
"That's probably the best thing I can say about our team tonight," Lappe noted. "We don't take that lightly. Rebounding takes a lot of heart, character and effort. I really liked how our posts crashed the offensive glass and we were constantly trying to get second- and third-chance points. And we were doing a great job keeping them off the glass. We're extremely happy with our rebounding."
CU outscored DU 32-12 in the paint and got 13 second-chance points to the Pioneers' three. The Buffs committed 13 turnovers and scored 19 points off of the home team's 19 errors. And CU's bench outscored DU's 30-12.
When the Buffs finally got engaged, the night turned easy. But Lappe and her players know a slow start on Friday might doom them. The ante goes up against Louisville.
But, noted Brittany Wilson, "It is good to know if we come out like we did (Tuesday) we can turn the switch on and come back up. But we're not going to be able to do it against a really good team. We've got to come out like we have been and play with the defensive pressure we have been. Tonight it wasn't as good as it could have been.
"We didn't come out with our defensive pressure as we usually do. We came out kind of slow. It's never good to look on to the next team, but we were excited to play this team. We know we can play with the best of the best. The time to show it is now."