Offensive rebounds off missed free throws and poor offensive execution down the stretch crushed any chance of an upset for Colorado women's basketball, as the Buffs fell 53-49 to No. 7 California.
"You have to give California a lot of credit," said Colorado head coach Linda Lappe. "They made a lot of opportunities for themselves and they were downright tougher than us on the low block."
Colorado (11-2, 0-2 Pac-12) came out of the gates with much more authority than they showed on Friday against Stanford. Brittany Wilson held Cal's leading scorer Layshia Clarendon scoreless in the first half. Third and fourth leading scorers Gennifer Brandon and Talia Caldwell were also held without a point to their names, as CU entered the locker room with the score tied at 24.
Chucky Jeffery - who only had three points in the first half - came out of halftime determined to give Colorado their second win over a top ten opponent on the season. Jeffery converted a layup on the opening possession of the second half and proceeded to grab a rebound off an Arielle Roberson block and take it the length of the floor to give Colorado their biggest lead of the game at 28-24.
However the Golden Bears responded well. After an Ashley Wilson layup at the 17:11 mark, Cal would hold CU without a point for nearly five minutes. Jen Reese broke the drought with a layup, bringing Colorado to within two points at 36-34.
The Buffs would tie the game for the final time at the 10:54 mark, as Arielle Roberson punctuated a spectacular three-point play with a made free throw to knot the score at 38.
After Roberson's free throw, Colorado was plagued by another scoring dry spell, this one lasting over five minutes. Reese once again put an end to the scoreless streak, as she hit her signature turn-around jumper in the post, cutting the Cal lead to six.
Colorado would cut to margin to three just seconds later as Arielle Roberson nailed a three-pointer from the left wing. Cal countered by pushing their lead back up to eight. Sensing the game slipping away, Jeffery and Brittany Wilson scored six consecutive points, to bring the Buffs within two, 49-51 with just 23 seconds remaining.
Needing to stop the clock, Brittany Wilson fouled Clarendon with 15 seconds on the game clock. Clarendon, a 76 percent free throw shooter, missed both shots, but Reshanda Grey snagged the offensive rebound, prompting the Golden Bears' head coach Lindsay Gottlieb to call for time.
Once again, Colorado sent Clarendon to the line, where she missed the first but sunk the second. Gottlieb took another timeout. Out of the timeout, Jeffery drove the length of the floor. As she neared the baseline, she looked for Lexy Kresl coming off a backside screen at left corner, but dribbled the ball out of bounds.
With only four seconds remaining, Colorado sent Brittany Boyd to the line, where she missed both shots, but once again Cal was able to snag the offensive rebound, effectively putting the game to bed.
"They were lower, more physical and quicker than us off the line," said Lappe on her team's inability to rebound off missed free throws. "A lot of times they were getting inside position before we had inside position and they exploded up. Not getting those rebounds, I think, was the difference in the game tonight."
Colorado will look for their first Pac-12 win on Tuesday, as they host Utah.