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Buffaloes drop their first conference game against UCLA

The game was much closer than the final score suggests.

NCAA Womens Basketball: UCLA at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

History was made at the CU Event Center on Friday evening, as the third-ranked Buffaloes took on fifth-ranked UCLA in the very first top five matchup in program history. 11,338 fans made the trek to The Keg, selling out the event center for the very first time since the 90s and setting a new record for attendance. Spectators got to witness an amazing back and forth game, one which the Buffs ultimately lost by a score of 68-76.

Both teams came out of the gates showing why they were ranked so highly, going bucket for bucket for nearly the entire first quarter. The Buffs started the game off hitting their open threes, as Jaylyn Sherrod and Frida Formann both nailed shots from deep to net Colorado six quick points. The Bruins responded with a three of their own and a couple of layups for good measure, taking an 11-10 lead midway through the first. The Buffs proceeded to go on a 6-0 run, which was followed by Frida Formann and Charisma Osborne trading two buckets each to close the quarter. The Buffs finished the first up 19-15.

The Buffs continued cruising to in the second, extending their lead to 34-26 with 2:06 left in the half. Five straight Colorado misses and two fouls allowed the Bruins to go on a 8-1 run to put themselves right back within the game. At the end of the first half, Colorado headed to the locker room up 35-32. The Buffs looked like their usual selfs in the first half, playing with a frantic pace on offense and overwhelming their opponents defensively. Colorado out-rebounded this Bruins squad that’s notorious for being phenomenal on the boards, netting 18 rebounds compared to UCLA’s 17. If Colorado could just keep hitting their shots and holding their own on the boards, it looked as though a win was in the bag.

Unfortunately, that’s not quite how things played out. UCLA took a one point lead only 30 seconds after the start of the half and it all started to go downhill from there. All of a sudden, the Buffs just couldn’t come down with rebounds. The Bruins started stacking the paint with Lauren Betts and Angela Dugalich, who are both extraordinarily long players, and they were just snagging offense board after offensive board. UCLA completely outmuscled the Buffs, snagging 18 rebounds in the third quarter alone to begin to take control of the game. It didn’t help that the Buffs shots just were not falling and they were the victim of some questionable foul calls by the officiating crew. The Buffs headed to fourth trailing 49-48.

Colorado started the fourth quarter on the right foot, tying the game at 51 a piece after playing only 20 seconds. Immediately after leveling the field, the Buffs got hit with four really weak foul calls in the span of under a minute. Jaylyn Sherrod picked up her fourth foul with 9 minutes to play in the quarter and the Bruins got within one foul of entering the bonus, which they’d hit with 7:35 left in the fourth. That’s where Colorado’s foul trouble started to get truly insurmountable and things officially fell apart.

The Buffs just didn’t look anything like the team we’re accustomed to seeing in the fourth. Foul trouble caused the usually pesky and physical defense to become nonexistent, while Jaylyn Sherrod had to completely stop driving to the rim to avoid fouling out. This led to the Buffaloes offense becoming extremely stagnant, as the team was holding onto the ball for far longer than they typically do.

Despite everything levied against them, the Buffs showed some fight and tied things up at 60 halfway through the fourth, but a Kiki Rice three pointer gave the Bruins a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. UCLA finished the game shooting 8 of 10 from the field, as well as 10 of 13 from the free throw line. The Bruins sheer inability to miss their shots in the fourth quarter earned them a 76-68 win over CU.

Despite what the score may suggest, this game was a nail biter right down to the end. The Buffs never felt like they were really truly out of it until the final minute of the game, where they found themselves down by 9 points. The Bruins just crushed Colorado on the boards and hit their shots in the second, which proved to be enough to break the Buffaloes. Even the very best basketball teams have nights where they get outworked, which is exactly what happened to the Buffaloes on Saturday.

Thankfully, JR Payne and her team don’t have to wait long for their shot at redemption. #6 USC comes to town on Sunday, marking the Buffaloes’ third top 10 matchup in only a week. If Colorado can beat the Trojans in Boulder, there’s a very high likelihood that they don’t fall out of the top 5 in the AP Poll. The Buffs have their work cut out for them, so let’s see if they can bounce big in a big way on Sunday.