BOULDER - Non-conference basketball schedules are all about preparing for the real thing - conference play. If a team can improve game-by-game, that's good. If it can remain unbeaten while improving, all the better.
The University of Colorado women's basketball team is doing both. The Buffs used a 9-0 run midway through the second half to pull away from Wyoming and win 68-59 on Wednesday night at the Coors Events Center.
"When you're not in your conference schedule, you want as many different scenarios as you can get," said CU coach Linda Lappe, whose team went to 5-0 and 3-0 at home this season. "We're starting to get that with this year's schedule . . . . I feel we'll be prepared for whatever we see down the road."
What the Buffs saw Wednesday night from the previously unbeaten Cowgirls (4-1) was an opponent that runs its offense efficiently, was strong on the boards, goes to the rim often and still was shooting just over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
"We've seen a lot of good things from good teams," said CU senior guard Chucky Jeffery. "It's good because in the Pac-12 we'll be seeing a lot of different things from different things . . . (Wyoming) has some good three-point shooters. They ran a lot of pick-and-pops, which we haven't seen a lot, but we adjusted and got the win."
Jeffery's contributions were major; she recorded her 21st career double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds in what Lappe called "kind of her breakout game so far . . . she's eased her way back in. It was good to see her play and get into her flow. She was more aggressive and we needed her to be."
The Buffs also got double-figure scoring performances from Arielle Roberson (14) and Jen Reese (10), with Lexy Kresl adding eight.
With the exception of a 39-39 draw on the boards, CU held a statistical advantage in every other category. The Buffs outscored the Cowgirls 34-20 in the paint, 27-9 off of turnovers, 13-6 in second-chance points, 8-0 on fast breaks and 22-12 in bench productivity.
"Wyoming's a good team," Reese said. "I give them props . . . they came out and played their game. But we came out and got the win."
Lappe was particularly pleased with her team committing just 12 turnovers and converting the visitors' 18 errors into 27 points. "We made their turnovers count," Lappe said, adding that her team regained its composure in the second half and turned the ball over only five times.
Although far from perfect, the Buffs led most of the first half and were up 31-26 at intermission. They didn't shoot exceptionally well (40.6 percent) from the field, but their defense on the Cowgirls compensated for that.
"We came out a little slow," Jeffery said. "We were just not hitting our shots, not recognizing to get the ball inside. After we figured it out, we got it going."
Wyoming went almost 5 minutes between field goals to open the game and at the 5-minute mark, the Cowgirls had hit only two field goals and trailed 10-4. But the Buffs encountered their own cold spell shortly thereafter and the visitors quickly caught up.
The Cowgirls tied the score at 15-15 on a three-pointer by Kaitlyn Mileto, who scored a team-high 16 points, then went up 18-15 - their first lead since 2-0 - on another trey by Ashley Sickles. But a 9-4 run to close out the half gave the Buffs their five-point advantage at intermission.
The Cowgirls took a pair of three-point leads early in the second half before the Buffs settled down and took control with their 9-0 run. Trailing 43-42, CU got a three-pointer from Kresl, a conventional three-point play from Roberson and a three-ball from Brittany Wilson to go up 51-43 with 11:55 to play.
When that 9-0 spurt extended to 15-4, the Buffs were in command. Wyoming pulled as close as four points a couple of minutes later, but never threatened again. CU increased its lead to as many as 14 points in the final 7 minutes.
Teams' identities change yearly, and Lappe said this CU team's second-half focus is much better than last: "We've come out with the right focus in the second half and we have some confidence in us. I think that is where your experience comes into play. We have experienced players on the floor that have been in those situations, and they've been able to provide whatever the needs, at whatever point. I think you definitely saw that tonight."
The Buffs travel to Illinois on Saturday, with the next home game coming on Wednesday, Dec. 5 against Colorado State in the first game of a men's-women's doubleheader against the Rams. The women's game tips at 5:50 p.m.
NOTE: Junior guard Ashley Wilson will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery on Thursday and be sidelined for two to three weeks. Lappe said the Buffs missed Ashley's energy off the bench Wednesday night, but she was counting on someone else stepping up to fill that void. "I thought (freshman) Lauren Huggins did a great job coming in and providing a spark that we needed," Lappe said.