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Sophomore Brittany Wilson and junior Chucky Jeffery glanced at each other, smirked and deferred a question to their head coach about playing against the University of Utah for the third time this season.
This unselfish and focused duo helped beat the Utes in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in Los Angeles on Wednesday night by a score of 55-41.
“It was good for us to get that cushion in the first half and we didn’t let their physicality bother us,” said head coach Linda Lappe. “That was the biggest difference from this game to last game.”
Colorado’s defense stifled Utah for most of the first half. The Utes even went on a 13-minute dry stretch where they did not make a field goal. CU capitalized on their miscues and gained momentum heading into intermission. The No. 10 seeded Buffs took a 17-point lead into the half.
Utah came out of the break with an entirely different outcome on their minds. A quick, mini-run by the Utes tightened the gap and set the stage for a comeback. Colorado has allowed the opposition to recover in previous games, but that was not going to happen to the Buffs this time. Utah’s second-half run and Colorado’s ensuing response may be truly to credit for the upset victory.
“We were just waiting for our run,” Wilson said. The California native scored a team-high 21 points, many coming on key possessions. “You look up and see that it is down to seven but you don’t get nervous.”
The Buffs were ready and posed to respond. They looked like a team who had been there before. They had been in close contests numerous times this season, but they learned from past experiences that aided them against the Utes.
“We fought back and hit some free throws down the stretch,” Lappe said. The free throw line has been an area of emphasis for the Buffs and one that has played a vital role in several contests this year. “Our defensive effort tonight was really solid and that is what helped us get the victory.”
The two previous meetings between the Utes and the Buffs were hotly contested, so it came as no surprise that this game was no different. The Buffs beat Utah in Salt Lake City 58-52 earlier this season, but the Utes countered with an 61-56 overtime victory in Boulder.
On Wednesday, though, Colorado outplayed Utah early and held on tight to move on to the second round.
“This is the third time we played them this year,” said Utah head coach Anthony Levrets. “This is by far the best they played and they played a really good game on us.”
Colorado will take on Cal on Thursday at 6 p.m. MST. The Golden Bears are the No. 2 seed in the tournament and have beaten the Buffs twice already this year.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Andy McDonnell at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org.