We gave up three transition threes in a row, and then suddenly, they had life. —Utah head coach Lynne Roberts
SALT LAKE CITY — After the Utah women’s basketball team scored 16 unanswered points to open Thursday night’s contest, it looked as if the Utes were primed for a blowout win as Colorado kept missing, failing to connect on its first 16 field goals of the game.
Then, the Buffaloes found a spark.
The Buffaloes’ first field goal of the contest came with just three minutes left in the first quarter. After seeing the ball swish through the net for the first time on a Kennedy Leonard 3-pointer, Colorado hit two more 3-pointers and a layup, going on a 12-0 run to climb back into the game and make it a close contest until the final whistle.
“We gave up three transition threes in a row, and then suddenly, they had life,” Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said.
Utah fell to Colorado 69-65 in a game that came down to the last seconds.
The Utes had the ball down two with five seconds remaining, but a misread led to an Erika Bean turnover that sealed the victory for the visitors.
“We were trying to bring everybody up, and then get Bean the ball. Huffy (Megan Huff) was being denied so hard that we were going to go for her over the top, so that’s what the look was. That was the look,” Roberts said. “I think it was just a misread with Huff and Bean. I think Bean thought Huff was going to go backdoor. That was the look we were going for. We weren’t looking for a turnover.”
Leonard scored 31 points while shouldering most of the offensive workload for the Buffaloes.
“She’s a good player. She’s a really good player and she has that killer instinct. We wanted to sit on her right and not let her go right, and we didn’t do a very good job — with all of their attackers,” Roberts said.
Colorado's Brecca Thomas also came up big in the second half, scoring 11 of her 13 points in the latter half of the game.
After the first quarter where both teams traded big runs and a tight second quarter where both teams scored 13 points, Utah carried a 33-27 lead into halftime.
Utah started off the second half hot, going on a 5-0 run. Colorado countered with a 9-0 run of its own later in the period to tie the game at 44. The Buffaloes forced the Utes into three turnovers in a span of two minutes, while Colorado took its first lead on a Leonard reverse layup, which was followed by a Thomas 3-pointer. Utah’s four-minute-long scoring drought was broken with a Bean three, and the Utes trailed the Buffaloes by two as the third quarter ended.
Utah struggled to score at the beginning of the fourth quarter, while Colorado reeled off six consecutive points. Thomas continued to attack the basket, scoring six straight points, but Utah battled back, sinking three baskets in a row to pull within two with four minutes left.
Colorado, up three, committed an offensive foul with a minute left. Megan Huff crossed her defender and drove for a layup to pull Utah within one with 49 seconds remaining. Leonard responded with a layup, then Tilar Clark cut the lead to one on a layup, assisted by Huff.
After Leonard calmly sunk two free throws with 10 seconds left, Clark was fouled while driving, making both free throws to shrink the margin to one. After the intentional foul, Colorado's Alexis Robinson split a pair of free throws, and Roberts called timeout, setting up a final shot with Utah down two, but the Utes turned the ball over on their last possession.
Utah will travel to Boulder to face Colorado again on Sunday when the Utes will try and avenge Thursday’s loss.
“It’s certainly weird to play the same team twice in one week. There’s challenges and benefits; I think the benefit is that we don’t have to keep this taste in our mouth very long, we get to play them again. Of course we have to do it on the road,” Roberts said. “The benefit is the scout (report) is fresh in our mind and it’s not like you got to reacquaint yourself with them, but the challenges are, they're the same team you played 72 hours ago. It’s almost like you play an 80-minute game, keep score at halftime.”