BOULDER – A respectable night on offense and a 22-point win might appease many college basketball coaches, but don’t count Colorado’s Linda Lappe among them.
Although her unbeaten No. 11-ranked Buffaloes put away the University of Denver 83-61 on Thursday night for the program’s 33rd straight regular-season non-conference win, Lappe left the Coors Events Center disgruntled about the Pioneers’ point total.
“I’m not happy with giving up 61 points,” Lappe said, crediting the Pioneers with their strategy in attacking the Buffs as much as her team’s hot-and-cold defensive effort. “Our sense of urgency and intensity (on defense) have to get better.”
Offensively, that’s a different, more upbeat story. The Buffs (9-0) hit 80 points for the fifth time in nine games this season and continue to cruise behind balance like they haven’t enjoyed in recent years. Four players reached double figures on Thursday night, with eight of the 10 players Lappe employed entering the scoring column.
Arielle Roberson’s 22 points were a game high, and her 10 rebounds constituted a third consecutive double-double and sixth of her career. She was backed by Jen Reese (18), Lexy Kresl (13) and Brittany Wilson (12). Kresl also tied a career high with six assists.
“It felt good,” Roberson said of her overall game. “I mean, it’s finals week and I’m just trying to relieve some stress in some type of way. This is the only way I really know how. I just went out there and played my game, and my teammates were great.”
Roberson hit 13 of 17 free throws – both career highs – with her 17 attempts one shy of the school record. For the night, the Buffs hit 25 of 32 foul shots, while the Pioneers were 8-of-18.
Reese might have believed she was done wearing protective masks, but she’s back in one after suffering a broken nose a couple of days before the Buffs’ trip to Wyoming on Dec. 4. A broken orbital bone required Reese to wear protective goggles all of last season.
“I can’t catch a break on my face, apparently,” she said, adding that she is scheduled to ditch this mask by the end of this month. “It’s a hassle, obviously, just like the goggles were. But I have to protect my face right now.”
Reese had eight rebounds to go with her 18 points and was one of four Buffs with six or more boards. CU outrebounded DU 49-35 and outscored DU 36-18 in the paint. The Buffs also collected 23 second-chance points to the Pioneers’ five. CU shot 44.3 percent from the field (27-of-61) while holding DU to 37.1 percent (23-of-62).
The Buffs fell behind 17-12 with 12:10 left before halftime but finally got untracked with a 20-3 run that helped put them ahead 32-20 and in command for the rest of the night. The Pioneers (1-8) lost for their sixth consecutive game.
“There were moments where we definitely let them have anything they wanted like easy transition buckets,” Roberson said. “But I don’t think we ever lost confidence and thought the game wasn’t ours. We just knew we had to settle and buckle down.”
The Buffs did both in their 20-3 spurt, and as sporadic as it was for the night Lappe credited her defense for hitting the ignition in that run.
“It’s amazing how that happened,” she said. “We started playing defense and getting aggressive. We got our hands in passing lanes, not giving up angles on drives, stayed between them and the basket and communicated. We had a different level of defense in that period of time and what that led to was fast and easy baskets on our end.”
After that brief defensive flurry, the Buffs led 47-32 at the half. They outscored the visitors 11-4 in the first 5 minutes of the second half and went up by as many as 26 points before the final buzzer. The Pioneers got no closer than 14 in the last 12 minutes.
Roberson said Lappe’s halftime message centered on “defending and buying in . . . and we needed to get more action toward the rim. That helped create better things for our offense, but (Lappe’s message) was definitely a lot of defense. We’re allowing more points than we did last year. I know we shouldn’t talk about the past, but that’s also something to build off of.”
Last season, the Buffs allowed an average of 54.5 points over 32 games. This season, Lappe says the Buffs’ defensive goal can change on a game-by-game basis. But they entered Thursday night allowing 58.2 a game and Lappe obviously reminded them often that 61 was too high a total for DU – particularly given the absence of Morgan Van Riper-Rose.
Although the 5-10 junior guard was averaging 11.7 points this season, she scored a career-high 28 points against CU last season in the Buffs’ 83-63 win. DU also was minus senior forward Maiya Michel, whose 8.4 rebounds a game tied her for the team high. Both players sat out with injuries.
CU is off until traveling to No. 7 Louisville on Saturday, Dec. 21. The Buffs defeated the Cardinals 70-66 last season in Boulder, giving CU its signature non-conference win. In the return trip, said Roberson, the Buffs will face a “great team that can shoot the ball . . . I think we’re excited for that game because we can very well beat them. But we definitely have to get better at defending as well as continuing to score.”
Lappe said her players – energized by upperclassmen – “need to have an understanding of what we mean by a sense of urgency . . . we will get it there. We have a week to get it there before a really good opponent in Louisville. So we will work on it and start to get tougher on the defensive side of things.”