SEATTLE -- It’s been said one of the hardest things to do in all of sports is to beat the same team three times in one season, but the No. 9 seeded Colorado Buffaloes weren’t listening. Their 76-65 win over the No. 8 seed UCLA Bruins tipped off the 2014 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament this afternoon at Seattle's KeyArena and represented the third win for the Buffs over the Bruins this season.
The Wilson sisters, Ashley and Brittany, were the spark plugs for the Buffs, attacking the Bruins off the dribble and pushing the pace in transition. They scored the first 12 points of the game for Colorado and finished with a combined 33 points (16 for Ashley and 17 for Brittany). Colorado now moves on to face No. 1 seed Stanford on Friday at noon PT on Pac-12 Networks.
"Right now it hurts that my season is ending, but I do want to give her (Colorado Head Coach Linda Lappe) a lot of credit for how she's handled a difficult year as well," UCLA Head Coach Cori Close said. "But for me, I just love my team. If you would have told me I would feel this deeply and be so proud of a team with this record at the beginning of the year, I would have said you're crazy."
The Buffaloes burst out of the gates in the first half, shooting over the top of the Bruins’ zone defense and making three of their first four shots from downtown to jump out to a 15-9 lead a little more than six minutes into the game. CU's hot shooting cooled down midway through the first half and the Bruins rallied to take a 22-17 lead with 7:25 left in the opening half.
With senior guard Lemberger missing the game for the Bruins, UCLA looked inside to senior Nyingifa to carry the offense. She struggled, forcing some tough shots, and finishing the first half on 1-for-10 shooting with just three points. Nyingifa’s rough first half was offset by sophomore Nirra Fields’ fabulous start. Her fearless play led to nine first-half free throws. She went into the break leading all scorers with 16 points. After UCLA went up five, the teams traded baskets with Colorado managing to tie the score at 29-29 by halftime.
The second half started off a lot like the first with the Wilson sisters attacking and the Bruins looking to Nyingifa. She hit her first two shots of the second half and UCLA crept out to a 39-36 lead with 16:47 left to play. A three by UCLA’s Madeline Brooks pushed the lead to 42-36, but the Buffs took control from there behind, who else, the Wilson sisters.
Brittany gave the Buffs a 48-46 lead with 11:45 remaining, fighting through contact to bank in a tough shot. A Lexy Kresl three essentially iced the game and put Colorado up by 12 with 2:50 remaining. The Bruins showed their heart and kept chipping away, but couldn’t get closer than 68-62. The Wilson sisters were huge for the Buffs but Kresl’s 14 points were key, as well.
"I don't think we rebounded as much as we thought we would," Nyingifa said. "So we were down on the boards. Like Coach said, I think our offense, we just couldn't find a good rhythm, and it didn't help that we couldn't put together a couple stops in a row to give us more momentum on offense. So we just kind of struggled on both ends."
Fields led UCLA with 24 points and Nyingifa, playing her final game as a Bruin, scored 13 points on 6-for-18 shooting. Brooks scored a career-high 12 points (4-for-8 from three-point range). Redshirt junior Corinne Costa had two points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks against Colorado to end her season one shy of tying UCLA's single-season record in blocks with 52.
UCLA will serve as one of 16 hosts for the 2014 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament (First and Second Rounds) on Mar. 22 and 24. You can purchase tickets by clicking here
No. 8 UCLA vs. No. 9 Colorado (Pac-12 Tournament, First Round)
|No. 9 Colorado||29||47||76|
|No. 8 UCLA||29||36||65|