Sophomore guard Kennedy Leonard prepares a shot. March 16, 2017 (Jesse Hughes/CU Independent File)

Buffs down South Dakota State in OT 81-75, advance in WNIT Tourney

After dispatching the UNLV Rebels during the first round of the WNIT Tournament in Boulder last Thursday, Colorado hit the road for Brookings, South Dakota, where a 23-9 South Dakota State Jackrabbits team waited.

The Buffs got off to a rough start, as the team struggled to score points in the opening quarter and trailed, 17-9, after 10 minutes of play. At halftime, thanks to a nice bounce back of a second quarter, the Buffaloes had clawed their way back into the game trailing by just one point.

Sophomore guard Kennedy Leonard made just 3-of-12 attempts from the floor in the first half, but contributed nine points and two assists to the Buffs’ cause. Senior guard/forward Haley Smith also scored nine as Colorado went to the locker room down 29-28 at halftime.

The Buffs came out of halftime rejuvenated and played arguably their best quarter of the game, scoring 23 points to the Jackrabbits’ 14.

Smith nailed a three-pointer about two minutes into things and followed it up with a fastbreak layup. Sophomore forward Makenzie Ellis then sank one from long range, giving Colorado a 38-31 lead at the 6:55 mark.

The Buffs took a 10-point lead as time dwindled in the third quarter. Sophomore guard Ariana Freeman made a layup, putting CU up, 49-39. Colorado would take a 51-43 lead heading into the final quarter of play.

All signs were pointing to a comfortable win for the Buffs, who led by 13, with six and a half minutes to play in the game. But SDSU mounted a furious comeback, outscoring Colorado 16-5 in a roughly five minute span. With 1:14 left to go, Colorado’s lead had dwindled to two points, as the Buffs were in front, 63-61.

The Jackrabbits tied the game at 63 with 36 seconds left. Neither team managed more points in regulation, initiating overtime quarter.

South Dakota State drew first blood in OT, as Clarissa Ober made a pair of free throws, but shortly thereafter, Leonard sank a three-pointer, putting Colorado on top, 66-65. Leonard struck again and made a jumper about a minute later and Smith followed it up with a longball of her own, capping the Buffs’ 6-0 run from the 4:11 to 2:25 marks.

The Jackrabbits’ scoring drought at a critical portion of overtime costed them, as Colorado continued to lay down the hammer. Leonard made a free throw with 48 seconds left, putting the Buffs up by nine. SDSU came within three, trailing 76-73 with 30 seconds left, but four converted free throws made by leonard in the span of eight seconds sealed the win for Colorado, as the Buffs escaped Brookings with an 81-75 victory.

Leonard dropped 29 points, which lead the team, and also snagged seven rebounds to go along with eight assists. Smith was next with 21, and Ellis dropped 10. Sophomore guard Alexis Robinson did not play due to an injury she sustained in practice.

The Buffaloes will now take on the University of Iowa on the road on Thursday, March 23. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. MST.

Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero at justin.guerriero@colorado.edu and follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo.

 

About Justin Guerriero

Head Sports Editor Justin Guerriero is a city boy from Pittsburgh, PA, who fell in love with the mountains upon touring CU Boulder for the first time prior to his freshman year. He is a diehard Pittsburgh sports fan and primarily covers CU football and basketball at the CUI. Justin is a junior majoring in broadcast production with minors in history and communications. Follow him on Twitter @TheHungry_Hippo

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