BOULDER – Four nights after breathing a sigh of relief following a four-point win at Colorado State, the No. 17 Colorado women’s basketball team hardly was forced to take a deep breath in its 2013-14 home opener.
CU cruised past overmatched Alcorn State 83-33 Friday night at the Coors Events Center, winning its sixth consecutive home opener and its 38th in 40 tries. The Buffs’ next home game won’t be so cushy; Iowa visits the CEC on Wednesday (8:30 p.m.) and likely will be 4-0 by then.
But that’s five days out, and by then CU’s romp past Alcorn State (1-2) will be a distant memory. In fact, it might be already.
Friday night was a clear-the-bench, name-your-score outing for the Buffs, who were pushed hard by the Rams on Tuesday night before escaping with a 63-59 win.
But Friday night was way different; Alcorn State had a hard time pushing at all and became CU’s 26th consecutive non-conference regular-season victim. Buffs coach Linda Lappe won her 66t h game at CU, the third-most wins in program history behind Ceal Barry (427) and Russell “Sox” Walseth (77).
CU led 42-14 at halftime and was up by as many as 50 in the final minute. The Lady Braves led once, 2-0, before being left behind.
Lappe used 11 players, and each of them scored. CU’s bench outscored Alcorn State’s 45-10.
“We had a lot of players play a lot of minutes and really played together well on the offensive and defensive ends,” Lappe said. “Anytime you have as many players as we did play significant minutes and share the ball and score and defend, it’s a good thing. I think our depth this year will be one of the keys in how we do as we go through the season. I liked what we saw tonight in terms of that.”
CU got a game- and career-high 16 points from redshirt freshman reserve guard Lauren Huggins, who hit five of her 10 three-point attempts. Junior guard Jasmine Sborov added 10 points, with junior forward Jen Reese and junior guard Lexy Kresl finishing with nine points each.
Included in Kresl’s total was a second-half trey that was the 100th of her CU career. She also went above 500 career points (501).
“I’m just happy about the win,” she said. “I would rather just have a winning season. It’s not as important to me. I take more pride in my defense at this point. That’s what I find more important, but it’s nice, too.”
The 6-1 Huggins is shooting precisely the way she does in practices, Lappe said: “She’s getting her feet squared to the rim . . . she’s got deep range and she’s 6-1, 6-2 with a high release. That makes her hard to guard. That’s her role on the team and she knows it.”
Sidelined for most of last season by a stress fracture, Huggins said her sharpshooting is the product of her teammates “hitting me and I’m hitting open shots . . . I owe it to passing and screens. My teammates have been working hard, like Lexy said, on our offense and I’m just in the right place at the right time.”
The Buffs had trouble at CSU finding offensive consistency, which was a point of emphasis in practices leading to Friday night. Said Kresl: “We went over it a lot the past two days (and) kind of figured out some of the areas we struggled in against CSU. I think we put together a more complete offensive game.”
Lappe agreed: “Our offense was way more efficient, especially in the second half. We shared the ball well (19 assists on 24 baskets) and moved much better in general.”
The Buffs shot 42.3 percent (11-of-26) from the field in the first 20 minutes, but only outscored the Lady Braves 6-2 in the paint. CU built its first-half lead largely on turnovers, getting 16 points off of Alcorn State’s 13 first-half errors.
CU wasn’t bad on the defensive end, either, holding Alcorn State to 20 percent from the field (10-of-50), forcing the visitors into 21 turnovers that were converted into 28 points and making 12 steals.
“Thus far this season Colorado is the best defense we’ve seen,” Alcorn State coach Tanya Edwards said. “They’re definitely on target to be one of the better defensive teams. One of the stingiest defenses I’ve seen in coaching career over the last seven years is Kentucky, but (CU’s) definitely on the right road to getting their defense up to that status.”
The Buffs also outrebounded the Lady Braves 41-28, but Lappe knows when Iowa comes calling and later when Pac-12 play begins, the difficulties inside will increase as the bodies become bigger and more athletic.
“The one thing I’m a little displeased about is our rebounding,” she said. “That’s something that has to get a lot better as we go forward.”
The Lady Braves scored the game’s first basket, took a 2-0 lead, and watched as the Buffs missed three shots on their first possession. And those were the night’s highlights for Alcorn State.
From there, CU hit five of its next seven shots – including a pair of three-pointers – and went up 14-2 before the visitors scored again. The Buffs built their lead to 21 (27-6) on three free throws by Kresl, who was hacked on a three-point try, then to 27 (36-9) on a Huggins trey with 4:14 left in the half.
CU closed out the first half with six consecutive free throws – four by Rachel Hargis, two by freshman Zoe Beard-Fails – and went to the locker room with a 28-point lead (42-14).
In the second half, with the margin climbing toward 50, Kresl said, “That’s when you have time to work on yourself, you don’t want to disrespect the team in any way. So you work on executing things that we’ve been implementing in practice and you kind of want to start looking ahead to the next game, which is probably going to be a little bit more of a challenge.”