The Colorado Buffaloes women’s basketball team faced off against the USC Trojans Sunday afternoon at CU Events Center. After the UCLA Bruins handed them their 11th straight loss on Friday night, the Buffs needed to snap their unfortunate skid on Sunday to save their season.
Seconds after tipoff, Southern Cal went on a 4-0 run until freshman guard Lesila Finau got Colorado on the board with a three-pointer. The Trojans slowly crept away with the lead as they made their free throws — the Buffs, however, were catching up.
Sophomore forward/guard Mya Hollingshed tied up the score 9-9 after a layup through traffic. From then on, it was a constant back-and-forth battle. After trading points, the Buffs started pulling away after freshman center Kai Volcy laid up a ball to make the game 13-12.
Colorado created more opportunities on offense from subsequent mistakes that the Trojans made. USC decided to put a full-court press on the Buffs. Colorado, however, was able to find the holes.
After a long pass, a Trojans defender was closing in on junior guard Quinessa Caylao-Do, but freshman guard Emma Clarke was wide open at the other corner of the court.
Caylao-Do’s pass was perfect for Clarke to make an easy three-point play. The Buffs generated more scoring opportunities on fast breaks to make it a 25-14 score.
“I thought Emma’s effort on the offensive glass was phenomenal,” said head coach J.R. Payne. “She played fearlessly.”
USC’s offense generated several easy lay-ups and took advantage of easy points at the free-throw line. The Trojans were able to come back and make the score 25-22.
In the final seconds, Hollingshed and sophomore forward Annika Jank put away any Trojan attempts to win the quarter.
At the buzzer, the score was 29-26.
Coming into the second quarter, USC found a little fire and matched the Buffs’ physicality. Colorado went on a 4-0 run until the Trojans heated up and went on a seven-point scoring run of their own to make it a one-point game, 33-32.
A three-pointer from senior guard Alexis Robinson gave the Buffs their momentum back.
USC responded with a three-pointer from redshirt freshman guard Shalexxus Aaron. The Trojans would score one more time before the Buffs’ offense took over.
Jank played great defense coming off the bench to get the stops the Buffs needed before the half ended.
“She was in there mixing it up with older, bigger, more athletic kids,” Payne said of Jank. “Her rebounding was great.”
With a three-pointer from Robinson and Hollingshed in the final minutes, the Buffs went into the break up 43-38. At the start of the third quarter, USC went on a 4-0 run, making the score 43-42 out of the second-half gate.
Coach Payne called a timeout immediately to begin the half. Out of the huddle, Clarke sank a three-point shot. The Trojans came back in the third, but Hollingshed caught fire in the middle of a Trojans’ scoring streak to bring the score to 49-44.
The Trojans were playing a much better third frame, and the Buffs could not stop USC’s back-door layups as the Trojans took the lead by three.
Robinson was able to get the Buffs back on track with an easy layup, but USC would not go down without a fight. The Trojans took the lead after a Moore layup to make it 55-58. The Buffaloes wouldn’t go down without a fight either.
Colorado’s defense held the Trojans at 58. Finau sank her free throws, and with a Robinson jumper, the Buffs had the lead again, taking the third quarter by a slight 61-58 edge.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Hollingshed and Cayloa-Do took charge with a scoring run of their own, taking a 72-58 lead. USC was closing the gap, however, and Trojans’ junior guard Minyon Moore led the charge with three-point shots and free throws to tie the game.
Moore’s and USC’s effort tied the score at 74. The victory was slipping away for the Buffaloes.
“We just got in our huddle and said ‘let’s play smart and finish this game,'” Hollingshed said.
With the clock winding down, Robinson had the ball with six seconds left on the shot clock. She put up a three-point shot after Hollingshed made space with her screen and sank it to make it a 79-74 score.
USC had one final chance to close the gap and Moore went to the line, making both of her free throws. USC called a timeout with 20 seconds left. With both teams in the bonus round, Hollingshed was fouled on the in-bound and made her free throws.
“I love free throws,” Hollingshed said. “They’re unguarded, I can take my time.”
USC tried to score in the final seconds. Finau, however, rebounded the missed shot and dribbled the ball up the court. As the buzzer sounded, the Buffs snapped their 11-game losing streak with an 81-76 victory over the Trojans.
“I had a feeling when I woke up this morning that we were going to win,” Finau said.
It was an impressive victory for Colorado. Four players were in double digits in scoring — Clarke (10), Finau (14), Robinson (16) and Hollingshed (21) all had solid outings. While she scored only two points, freshman forward Peanut Tuitele tallied 11 rebounds on the afternoon.
“It was a team effort on both offense and defense,” Finau said.
The Buffs will travel to Arizona next weekend to face off against Arizona State on Feb. 15. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. MST.
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Zoe Collins Rath at Zoe.CollinsRath@colorado.edu.