The Colorado Buffaloes women appeared in their first NCAA Tournament since 2013, earning a #7 seed and a first round matchup against the Creighton Bluejays. The Buffs fought hard and Jaylyn Sherrod was marvelous (27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), but they were undone by a hot-shooting opponent in this 84-74 loss.
1st Quarter - Colorado 21, Creighton 17
The Buffs started this game on the front foot. J.R. Payne wants her team to be aggressive, hound the opposing ball handlers and push the tempo off turnovers and misses. That worked early on, especially with Jaylyn Sherrod looking like the player she has the potential to be. The junior guard is still working her way back from offseason hip surgery, but it was clear she was the most athletic player on the floor for either team. She was aggressive getting into the paint, where she was able to score on layups and create open looks for her teammates. It was clear from the start that she was going to be a problem for Creighton.
2nd Quarter - Colorado 31, Creighton 36
After that bright start, things started to get tough for the Buffs. Mya Hollingshed barely played in the first half after picking up two fouls, both on unnecessary swipes at the ball. CU was able to tread water with her out, mostly because of the stellar play from Sherrod and Quay Miller, the latter of whom has been a revelation as an interior scorer and high post passer. That success lasted until Sherrod hurt her ankle on a jump shot. She returned to the floor after a few minutes out, but the Bluejays turned the momentum and started tearing apart CU with smart passing. They took care of the ball, made the most of their open looks and turned this into a half court, jump shooting game.
3rd Quarter - Colorado 53, Creighton 61
Colorado isn’t really built for half court basketball unless Hollingshed is playing her best basketball. Once they had her back on the floor, the offense found their footing again. At 6’3 with ball handling and shooting skills, the fifth-year senior is a match up nightmare for all but the best defenders. She hit shots from all three levels and that took pressure off the others, especially Sherrod and Kindyll Wetta, who constantly slashed into the space opened up. However, as the Buffs started heating up offensively, they couldn’t get a stop on the defensive end. Even worse, Creighton was hitting mostly threes, so instead of going neck and neck, the Bluejays were expanding their lead.
4th Quarter - Colorado 74, Creighton 84
The Buffs looked like they were going to come back through sheer force of will. They finally realized their size advantage and attacked the paint every possession, scoring or drawing fouls on most of their inside shots. They were playing with a certain toughness that looked like it was going to wear down their opponent. That trend lasted until Creighton started hitting shots again, causing the Buffs to feel maybe a little anxious about the score and start taking jumpers instead. The Bluejays hit more shots, since they’re the better shooting team, and started to pull away with five minutes left. Colorado fought back to stay close, and could have pulled ahead with a bounce or two their way, but they ultimately fell, 84-74.
This concludes the best season Colorado has with J.R. Payne as head coach. We saw what a successful season can look like, even if it ended with a frustrating loss. The Buffs will be feisty, they will compete in the toughest conference in the country and they will contend for NCAA Tournament appearances. This program has a lot of momentum building and there’s nothing to suggest that will slow down, even with a loss today.
The Buffs will return almost everyone from this team, as far as we know. Mya Hollingshed has exhausted her eligibility, but every other player has time left. Jaylyn Sherrod should be fully healthy and might be a contender for Pac-12 Player of the Year if she plays like she did today. Quay Miller looks ready to step into a leading role. Kindyll Wetta, Frida Formann, and Tameiya Sadler have a ton of experience for still being underclasswomen and will only get better. Peanut Tuitele, Lesila Finau and Tayana Jones will all be super-seniors, should they come back, and each contribute in winning ways. This is a very good team and they should continue to grow together.