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Colorado Buffaloes survive upset bid from frisky Stanford Cardinal

The Buffs are legit.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament Semifinals Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time this season, the Colorado Buffaloes ran away from a top-10 opponent. First it was the defending champs LSU Tigers and today it was a 71-59 win over the 8th ranked Stanford Cardinal.

Colorado looked to be in danger early on when the Cardinal jumped out to 10-2 lead. The Buffs didn’t look right, didn’t hit their open looks, and Cameron Brink played every bit like the superstar she is. But that was just a poor start rather than a harbinger of bad things.

After that slow start, Jaylyn Sherrod and Kindyll Wetta caused havoc and got the Buffaloes running. The best defensive backcourt in the country harassed Stanford’s guards and caused many of their 11 first half turnovers. Five of those were live-ball steals the Buffs converted into fast break layups. That jolt of energy helped Colorado turn this top-10 matchup into a frenetic mess.

The Buffs appeared to take control at the beginning of the second quarter. That’s when Quay Miller, Sherrod and Charlotte Whittaker hit back-to-back-to-back threes to take a 28-20 lead. Colorado could have built more distance, but Sherrod picked up her second foul and the offense fell apart without her. Stanford went on their own run to narrow the deficit, only to be undone by Wetta hitting a half-court buzzer beater to send the Buffs into halftime with a 36-30.

Everyone expected Stanford to fight back — the announcers, the fans, the coaches, the players themselves — but Colorado beat the doors off of them in the third quarter. Starting with Frida Formann’s three-pointer, the Buffs went on a 20-2 run where everything went right. They played swarming defense, won the rebounding battle and picked apart the Cardinal defense with backdoor cuts and inside-out passing. Everyone was involved in the offense and players like Formann, Miller and Madie Nolan each hit tough shots.

The problem for the Buffs was that they built too big of a lead. Rather than playing their typical chaos ball, they tried to slow down the pace and milk the clock. But by doing so, they opened the door for the Cardinal to get back into the game. Kiki Iriafen got to the line, Brooke Demetre hit a couple threes and suddenly the Buffs were caught in a four-minute scoring drought. Thank goodness that Miller and Aaronette Vonleh scrounged a few points and the Buffs had enough breathing room to secure the win in the end.

The Buffs are now 15-1 on the season and 5-0 in Pac-12 play. More importantly, they beat a top-10 team and made it look relatively easy, barring the near collapse at the end. This team is a legit title contender and we need to appreciate it as much as we can. That means being there in person for the upcoming games against #2 UCLA and #9 USC on Friday and Sunday, respectively.