BOULDER - The No. 20 Colorado Buffaloes outlasted Washington 68-61 on Senior Sunday at the Coors Events Center and closed in on the No. 4 seed for next month's Pac-12 Conference Women's Tournament.
Winning their seventh consecutive game, the Buffs improved to 11-5 in the Pac-12 and moved into a fourth-place tie with the Huskies. But Sunday's win gives CU the head-to-head tiebreaker, and the Buffs' remaining schedule appears more favorable than the Huskies' for securing the No. 4 seed.
CU (22-5 overall) closes the regular season with games at Oregon (March 1) and Oregon State (March 3), while UW (19-8) finishes with home games against Pac-12 co-leaders Stanford and California. The conference tournament is March 7-10 in Seattle.
The Buffs led by 11 points at halftime and by as many as 12 before the Huskies closed to within one on two occasions in the final 9:58. And with 2:39 to play, UW pulled to 59-57 on the first field goal of the game by guard Jazmine Davis - the Pac-12's No. 2 scorer with a 19.7-point average. She finished with nine points, hitting only two of her 13 field goal attempts.
At that point, Jen Reese hit back-to-back mid-range jumpers to give the Buffs a six-point lead (63-57). The Huskies cut the deficit to three (64-61) on Davis' second field goal but CU went four-of-four from the free throw line in the last 37.6 seconds to seal its win.
"Well, you have to give Washington a lot of credit," CU coach Linda Lappe said. "They kept fighting and coming back especially in the second half and we knew they can score the basketball. Every time they made a run and made it close I thought we responded well, I liked how the team stepped up and never really gave up the lead in the second half. I saw a lot of heart and energy."
"It's truly satisfying," added Chucky Jeffery, one of three CU seniors playing their final regular-season home game. "We knew what was at stake but we just wanted to come out and play it like a regular game. They're a great team, they can score the ball, so for us to come out and hold them to 61 points I think that's really good for our team."
Jeffery, along with seniors Meagan and Brenna Malcolm-Peck, were honored in a postgame ceremony. The Malcolm-Pecks entered the game with about 11 seconds remaining, Jeffery went to the bench about three seconds later.
Jeffery battled through a left ankle sprain suffered early in the second half and scored 11 points. She said she "felt the sting a little bit," but after getting her ankle re-taped, "I walked it off . . . I'll be all right."
Jeffery also added 13 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the season and 29th of her career. She was one of four players in double figures, topped by Arielle Roberson's 16. Brittany Wilson added 13 - 11 in the first half - and Reese chipped in 11. Five of Reese's points came in the final 2:55, including her pair of critical jumpers after misfiring on another couple of open shots earlier.
"I thought Jen did a tremendous job of knocking down those two huge jumpers," Lappe said. "I think that shows a lot of mental toughness to be able to bounce back and knock down those two shots."
Brittany Wilson also was instrumental in holding Davis to 10-plus points below her average. "I knew she's a big asset to their team, a great player," Wilson said. "I just wanted to be her worst nightmare and I think that I did the best that I could with that."
Kristi Kingma led the Huskies with 19 points. Aminah Williams added 12, Talia Walton 11 and Mercedes Wetmore 10.
UW coach Kevin McGuff said the outcome came down to "intangibles . . . we played with a lot of heart in the second half. Clearly, Colorado was playing harder than we were in the first half but in the second half, I thought both teams competed and played hard and it was a great game. Colorado just did a little bit more down the stretch to get the win."
CU never trailed by more than three points in the first half, and after Kingma hit a three-pointer to send the Huskies up 16-14, the Buffs launched a 16-3 run that produced a 30-19 advantage.
An acrobatic put-back by freshman Jamee Swan enabled CU to maintain that 11-point lead (36-25) at intermission. UW opened the game hitting six of its first 11 shots, but made only three of its final 18 attempts to close the first half. CU held the visitors to 38.3 percent from the field and just 5-for-20 from behind the arc. The Huskies were averaging a league-leading 8.5 treys a game.
The Huskies scored the first six points of the second half, pulling to 36-31. The Buffs, meanwhile, had Jeffery leave the game with her ankle injury at the 19:12 mark. But she was back about four minutes later, and her return might have given CU an emotional lift.
Lappe said she knew Jeffery "would probably be tough enough to go back in. I felt like that injury kind of took out the air of the balloon for us, it happened so quickly for us in the second half and from there I felt like our demeanor kind of changed. But at the same time it was good to see her come back; she is a tough player and a big part of our team."
After UW crept to within five points, CU went on an 8-1 run and shot ahead 44-32 with 12:41 to play. Roberson scored six of the Buffs' points during that surge.
But that 12-point CU lead disappeared quickly. UW put together an 11-0 run that featured treys by Wetmore and Kingma and another three free throws by Kingma. That pulled the Huskies to within one twice in the final 9:58, but an 8-0 CU that included four points by Jeffery opened a nine-point Buffs lead (56-47).
UW wouldn't roll. The Huskies outscored the Buffs 8-2 over the next three minutes, closing to 58-55 with 3:38 to play and finally pulling to 59-57. Then Reese hit her pair of monstrous mid-range jumpers to give CU breathing room and the Buffs tucked away their big win at the free throw line.