BOULDER - The Stanford women's basketball team suffered a humbling home loss last weekend and that's where the Cardinal left that unpleasant experience - at home. The Stanford team that showed up Friday night at the Coors Events Center was crisp, focused and physical - and too much for slow-starting Colorado.
The No. 20 Buffaloes played the No. 4 Cardinal even (26-26) in the second half, but, oh, that forgettable first half . . . In the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams, Stanford opened strong and stayed in control, downing CU 57-40 and stopping the Buffs' winning streak at 11.
The Buffs' point total was their lowest of the season and tied for the third-fewest at home ever. CU had averaged 74.3 points in its first 12 games this season, but the Cardinal held the Buffs to 28.8 percent from the field (15-for-52), outrebounded them 41-27 and overpowered them in the paint 32-16.
CU (11-1, 0-1) doesn't have time to dwell on its first loss; No. 7 California visits the CEC on Sunday at noon. "It will show a lot about the character of our team - who we are, what we're about . . . now we just have to be ready to bounce back," CU coach Linda Lappe said. "It's a quick turnaround, but we have to be ready to play a solid 40 minutes."
Lappe said her team would "keep this (Stanford) game in perspective; it only hurts you if you let it. There were a lot of positives" - starting with how the Buffs put a first half that saw them trail 17-2 out of their minds and start fresh in the final 20 minutes.
"I liked how we came out in the second half with a different mindset," Lappe said. "But the beginning of the game basically killed us."
Stanford (12-1, 1-0) ) has won or shared the league championship in every season this decade, has posted 79 consecutive conference wins (regular season/conference tournament) and has made Final Four appearances in each of the past five seasons.
And the Cardinal, bolting to a 15-point lead almost before the Buffs could blink, offered hints Friday night that success of that sort might be on the way again.
CU also was seeing big, physical Stanford up close and personal for the first time, and not having their "practice guys" to work against over Christmas break made the Cardinal's visit even more challenging for the Buffs.
"We've got big, tall guys who come in and help us," Lappe said. "That's not an excuse, but it would have helped to practice against what we were going to see . . . (Stanford's) size, athleticism and strength put us on our heels."
Forward Chiney Ogwumike, a 6-4 junior, led Stanford with a game-high 20 points and 11 rebounds. Forward Joslyn Tinkle, a 6-3 senior, and sophomore guard Amber Orrange added 13 points each.
"They've got big bodies . . . we haven't faced that type of height and strength," said CU forward Arielle Roberson, a 6-1 redshirt freshman. "We didn't get that in practice. Like coach said, it was kind of like a shocker."
Roberson, who had been in double figures for all 12 games and entered Friday night as CU's leading scorer (15.7), finally reached double digits (10) on a jump shot with 49.1 seconds to play. Senior guard Chucky Jeffery was CU's leading scorer with 17. None of their teammates reached double figures.
Jeffery attributed her team's slow start to "being tentative" as well as not being able to simulate Stanford's size, strength and athleticism. "We weren't too hyped up; they're a very good defensive team. But we just have to be ready to play at the beginning of the game," Jeffery said.
CU was hoping to get a jump on the Cardinal and get the CEC crowd (5,888) involved - but it didn't work out that way. Stanford, coming off its first loss of the season last weekend (61-35 at home to Connecticut), got a grip on CU and didn't let go.
Tinkle opened the scoring with a three-pointer as the shot clock wound down, Orrange followed with a layup, and the Cardinal was in high gear. CU, meanwhile, was struggling to find first.
It took the Buffs nearly 4 minutes to get on the scoreboard - Rachel Hargis got the first basket at 16:15 - then another 6:11 was required to score again. At the 11:37 mark, Stanford was up 15-2 and CU was 1-for-15 from the field (6.7 percent) and had suffered six blocked shots.
Hargis finally got someone to accompany her in the scoring column when Jeffery hit a jumper from just left of the free throw line with 10:04 left before intermission. She finished with eight first-half points but got little help; in addition to Hargis, Roberson and Jen Reese were the only other Buffs to score. Each had two first-half points, and Roberson's first basket didn't come until 1:24 remained before intermission.
For most of the first half's final 12 minutes, Stanford held a 15-point lead, then increased it to 17 (31-14) in the last minute. CU's 14 first-half points were the fewest ever at home and tied for the third-fewest ever.
The Cardinal scored the second half's first four points and increased its lead to 21 (35-14) before the Buffs got a conventional three-point play from Roberson to open their second-half scoring. But CU still had a mountain to climb and the time to do it was dwindling.
The Buffs pulled to within 15 (37-22) on a steal and layup by Jasmine Sborov with 14:10 remaining, but the Cardinal answered with two free throws by Ogwumike and a layup by Orrange for a 19-point (41-22) advantage.
Jeffery converted a traditional three-point play with 3:30 remaining to pull the Buffs within 12 (49-37). "I don't think we ever stopped believing," Jeffery said. "But it was at that point where, 'OK, gather ourselves and we could cut this lead; we just have to get stops.'"
But the Buffs got no closer than that.
Now comes the task of regrouping swiftly to face the team projected to finish second behind the Cardinal in the Pac-12. Cal, said Lappe, resembles Stanford in the big and physical categories, will play an up tempo style and is experienced. In other words, a tall order on a quick turnaround.
"If we're going to be one of those top teams," Jeffery said, "we have to regroup quickly and get our minds ready for the next game."
It will be here before they know it.