BOULDER - Linda Lappe never will complain about a win, but squandering large leads is another matter.
The (Mild) Complaint Dept. is open.
Her first Colorado women's basketball team subdued the University of Tennessee-Martin 78-67 Sunday afternoon in the Coors Events Center, but as her debut season unfolds Lappe is looking for those cushy leads to stop disappearing.
"We haven't showed we can (hold onto a big lead) yet, but that's typical for this time of year," she said. "We haven't played a full 40 minutes yet, but I like our starts, though . . . I don't want to change how we're starting and how we're finishing. We just have to continue to work to put together a full game."
Following almost the exact script they did in Friday night's 71-57 win against Santa Clara, the Buffs forged a comfortable early advantage (15 points), apparently relaxed a bit and let Sunday's opponent close to within eight points at intermission.
Against Big 12 Conference competition, that kind of momentum swing might lead to an uncomfortable second half. Against UTM, of the Ohio Valley Conference, it wasn't devastating.
The Buffs outscored the Skyhawks 11-5 in the opening minutes of the second half, regained control and improved to 2-1 with their Omni Hotels Classic set for this weekend.
"We just need to stay consistent on defense . . . and not let (teams) go on big runs," CU senior Brittany Spears said.
Added sophomore Chucky Jeffery: "Our offense generates from our defense. We were playing defense hard, but when we get a lead, we seem to slack off a little. When we work on that, we'll be a good defensive team."
A streak of seven consecutive points by Jeffery, who scored a career-best 25 points, helped CU open a 12-point advantage (58-46) midway through the second half.
UTM, which plays at Air Force on Tuesday, pulled within 62-54 with just over 6 minutes remaining, but four consecutive free throws by junior Julie Seabrook restored CU's double-digit lead (66-54).
The Buffs stayed in front by at least 10 points until Heather Butler hit a pair of free throws with 2:29 to play, pulling the Seahawks to 71-63. But a follow by Jeffery, two free throws by Spears, another by freshman Brittany Wilson and a layup by Jeffery helped keep the visitors at bay in the final 1:50.
"We did a good job picking up the win," Lappe said. "We hit our free throws down the stretch; we're getting to the line more . . . offensively, we're clicking at times (but) defensively, we've got a lot of things to work on."
Put on-court communication and focus at the top of Lappe's list. "When we're on it mentally, we can be a really good defensive team," she said.
Spears finished with 20 points and surpassed the 1,600-point plateau (1,611) for her career - a surprise to her: "I didn't even know . . . I guess it's a great accomplishment."
She and Jeffery were the only two Buffs players in double figures. Spears also collected 12 rebounds, giving her 24 double-doubles in her CU career.
CU's 39-31 halftime lead resulted from 46.9 percent shooting from the field (15-of-32) and a string of four consecutive three-pointers by Spears (two), Britney Blythe and Jeffery.
At the time, the Skyhawks were leading 4-2, but the Buffs' treys on four consecutive possessions established a first-half advantage they never lost - although they didn't protect it to Lappe's liking.
After trailing by 15 twice, UTM went on a three-point spurt of its own, getting three straight from Megan White, Alecia Weatherly and Jaclissa Haislip to cut CU's lead to 31-25 with 3:15 left in the half.
But that was close as the visitors could come all game.
The Buffs were outrebounded 19-14 in the first half, but finished the game with a 38-34 advantage on the boards. Lappe said being focused in that area was vital for the Buffs. UTM entered the game with a 46-35 rebounding edge in its three previous games.
"That was one of our keys to the game," she said. "We were more aggressive going to the boards in the second half."
CU outscored UTM 28-24 in the paint and got 18 points off of 19 UTM turnovers. The Buffs committed 17 turnovers but yielded only 10 points off of those.
CU plays Evansville at 7:30 Friday night in the Omni Hotels Classic at the Events Center. Loyola-Chicago and Eastern Washington play at 5:30 p.m., with the two winners meeting on Saturday night (7:30). The consolation game is at 5:30 p.m.