After 50 minutes of gritty, hard fought basketball, the #21 Colorado Buffaloes fell in double-overtime to the #3 Stanford Cardinals, 73-62.
It was clear immediately what kind of game this would be. The Buffs locked down the paint and made life difficult for the Cardinal offense. Led by defensive stalwarts Jaylyn Sherrod and Tayanna Jones, the Buffs held Stanford scoreless for the first eight minutes. The Buffs eked out enough points — mostly from cuts and fastbreak layups — to build a 13-5 lead after the first quarter. It would have opened up the offense to have Frida Formann bombing threes, but the Dane was out with an illness and JR Payne had to make due without any shooting threats.
This defensive effort continued into the second quarter, although the Cardinal were able to hit some threes and star guard Haley Jones was able to get into a rhythm. Still, the Buffs dictated the tempo with their grit-n-grind play, halting half-court play to a slow pace, but still running in transition off turnovers and long rebounds. The CU offense wasn’t exactly good — 32% from the field doesn’t scream efficiency — but Tay Jones hit some shots and the Buffs scored enough to take a 24-18 lead into halftime.
Things did not go so well for the Buffs in the third quarter. Stanford came out of the break and scored 7 quick points to take a 25-24 lead. They had figured out CU’s aggressive defense and were more comfortable picking out soft spots. Most of those soft spots were in and around the paint, and most of their their points came from Lauren Betts, the 6’7 freshman from nearby Centennial. The Buffs stayed competitive but their offense really struggled to create anything aside from transition opportunities. It didn’t help that Quay Miller was up against Fran Belibi, another Colorado girl who is a defensive monster (and is 6’0 and can dunk).
It looked like Stanford had full control of the game, but the Buffs refused to quit. Sherrod and Kindyll Wetta upped the defensive pressure, Aaronette Vonleh sealed off the paint, and the Buffs ran after every turnover and rebound, sensing that the Cardinal were tiring. Miller had a rough go, but she kept going right at Belibi, earned foul calls and was perfect at the line. Sherrod had an injury scare, but being an absolute baller, returned to the game, made some great defensive plays and scored some clutch baskets, including the game-tying layup that forced overtime.
Overtime was as intense as could possibly be. Vonleh and Miller scored on post ups, then both converted free throws to give the Buffs the lead at different times. Sherrod also converted a wild layup in traffic. But every time CU had the upper hand, Stanford evened it up, no matter what happened. On one occasion, Jones missed both free throws, Belibi got the board and got fouled, then missed both free throws herself, then Jones got fouled going for the rebound. Jones converted both, giving Stanford the tie even after they missed four straight freebies.
After that, Sherrod hit two free throws to give the Buffs the 60-59 lead with 23.9 seconds left. Betts missed a layup on the other side and the Buffs got the board, but Sherrod missed both free throws after Stanford fouled. Betts got the ball back and got fouled, made one FT to tie the game, then missed the other to send it to overtime. Sherrod’s miss was the back-breaker, because Stanford ended up running away in the second OT, thanks to Jones getting into the paint and drawing fouls. (Sherrod will be livid with herself after that, but she was tremendous and made a number of great plays in the clutch.)
This really hurts for the Buffs because they had every chance to upset a top-five team and it just didn’t happen. Still, they fought hard and every bounce seemed to go Stanford’s way, especially at the end. This is a special team, and even if they lost this, they have proven time and time again that they can beat anyone in the country.