BOULDER – No. 14/19 ranked Colorado used a late 14-0 rally to pull away from Rice and claim the 2013 Omni Hotels Classic championship, 75-58, Saturday night at the Coors Events Center.
Junior guard Lexy Kresl scored 19 points and recorded five rebounds, four assists and three steals to earn Classic MVP honors. Classmate Jen Reese was also named to the All-Tournament team after scoring 13 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
Rice guard Megan Shafer hit a 3-pointer with 12:06 remaining in the game to pull Rice within four at 49-45.
But Colorado, 6-0, reeled off the next 14 points. Kresl made a nice pass to Reese in traffic on a fast break to put Colorado back up by double-digits at 56-45. Lauren Huggins then put back a Reese miss the next time down the floor to add to the rally.
The Wilson twins capped off the run. Brittany Wilson hit her second 3-pointer of the game and her sister Ashley Wilson caught the Owls defense sleeping for an open drive to the basket and layup to give the Buffaloes a 63-45 advantage.
“I like the way that our team bared down and got a certain level of toughness at about the eleven-minute mark in the second half,” CU head coach Linda Lappe said. “That was really where the game changed. We started defending, we started rebounding and that allowed us to run and transition to score.”
Rice guard Jessica Kuster, scored eight of her game-high 30 points to close the Colorado lead to 64-56 with 3:56 left. But the Buffaloes held off the Owls by staying aggressive. Arielle Roberson scored on a layup and Kresl scored four straight points to put the game away.
“That was a really fun game for our team and for our staff,” Lappe said. “We did not play our best, and we still found a way to win.”
Kuster, who struggled from the field against Samford in Friday’s opener, hitting only 1-of-9, couldn’t miss early on Saturday. She scored Rice’s first seven points and a traditional 3-point play tied the game at 7-7.
Colorado responded with 10 straight including 3-pointers from Brittany Wilson and Huggins and took a 17-7 lead on a Kresl layup.
Turnovers hurt the Buffaloes early and Rice cashed in. Colorado gave it up 10 times in the first 20 minutes which accounted for 11 Rice points.
But the Buffaloes shot 45 percent in the first half, allowing them to stay just ahead of the Owls. Reese hit a layup with 4:57 remaining to give Colorado a 27-17 advantage.
Rice then closed the half on a flurry behind Kuster. The All-Conference USA guard led the Owls on a 12-6 run, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off a mad scramble in the final minutes. Kresl missed a layup with eight seconds left which sent players sprawling for the rebound. Jasmine Goodwine eventually controlled it, shot it over to Christal Porter who got the ball to Kuster in time for her 3-pointer from the top of the key sent CU to the locker room with just a 33-29 lead.
“They were tough, and (Kuster) is a great player,” Lappe said. “We tried everybody on her in terms of guarding her, and she found a way to make things happen for them.”
Kuster scored her team’s first three points of the second half and cut CU’s lead to its smallest margin at 35-32 at the 19:02 mark. The Buffaloes countered with a 10-4 run capped off by four straight points by Kresl for a 47-36 lead.
Then all of a sudden Rice couldn’t miss from downtown. After making just 1-of-3 from deep in the first half, the Owls hit 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions for a 9-2 run that ended with Shafer’s 3-pointer and the four-point margin before Colorado’s big second half run.
Kuster, who set a tournament record for free-throws made and attempted over the two-games (23-of-29) joined South Alabama’s Jennifer Johnson and Samford’s Keke Fletcher on the all-tournament team. Samford defeated South Alabama 70-49 in Saturday’s consolation game.
Colorado returns to action by traveling to play Wyoming on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Arena Auditorium in Laramie.
2013 Omni Hotels Classic – Boulder, Colo.
Friday, Nov. 29
Rice 57, Samford 52
Colorado 94, South Alabama 61
Saturday, Nov. 30
Consolation: Samford 70, South Alabama 49
Championship: Colorado 75, Rice 58
Colorado 6-0 South Alabama 0-6
Rice 4-5 Samford 2-4
Lexy Kresl, Colorado, 5-11, Jr., G -- MVP
Jen Reese, Colorado, 6-2, Jr., F
Jessica Kuster, Rice, 6-2, Sr., F
Keke Fletcher, Samford, 5-11, So., F
Jennifer Johnson, South Alabama, 5-11, Sr., F