IOWA CITY, Iowa – Colorado took a huge step forward in getting to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years.
The Buffaloes will have to wait at least another year to take the next step.
On Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the seventh-seeded Buffs couldn’t catch up to 10th-seeded Creighton down the stretch, falling 84-74 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Our effort was fantastic tonight,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “Just two really good teams. Creighton is a great team and the things that they’re great at sort of, in some ways, are the couple of things that we’re not so great at. We knew it would be a tough matchup but proud of our ballclub as I am all the time.”
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CU (22-9) reached the biggest stage in college women’s basketball for the first time since 2013, but has lost four straight in the NCAA Tournament dating back to the second round in 2003. Creighton (21-9) will face No. 2 seeded Iowa, which routed Illinois State, 98-58, on Sunday.
Jaylyn Sherrod had a career-high 27 points to lead Colorado, while Mya Hollingshed had 15 points. The Buffs, however, struggled against the efficient offense of the Bluejays (21-9), who hit 50.9% of their shots. Creighton was led by Morgan Maly’s 20 points and 16 each for Lauren Jensen and Molly Mogensen.
“It was very tough, I’m not gonna lie because it was just so new for us,” CU senior Peanut Tuitele said of guarding Creighton. “Everybody was a shooter. Everybody had the green light.”
When Payne started scouting Creighton early in the week, she knew this would test her team. The Buffs have had one of the better defenses in the country this year, but Creighton had one of the better offenses and its style of constant motion and raining 3s didn’t match the Buffs’ strengths.
“If we’re really good at 98% of things defensively, (the Bluejays) live in that 2%,” Payne said. “What they do is not a strength of ours this season. I’m actually very proud of how we guarded. We had people doing things that they’ve never been asked to do defensively and we did it actually pretty effectively.”
CU was decent in defending the 3-pointer as Creighton, which averages 10.3 3s per game, went 8 for 19. The Bluejays, however, scored numerous buckets off their cutting and motion. Creighton was 21 of 38 (55.3%) inside the 3-point arc, 18 for 20 from the free throw line and scored more points against CU than anyone has since Denver had 85 on Dec. 8, 2020.
Despite the tough matchup, CU was within striking distance late.
Tuitele hit a pair of free throws to pull the Buffs within 72-68 with 2:21 to go, but that was followed by a back-breaking sequence.
Already playing without injured guard Tameiya Sadler, the Buffs lost guard Sila Finau to an apparent ankle injury shortly after the Tuitele free throws. Then, with 1:28 to go, a foul by CU’s Kindyll Wetta was tagged as intentional. Creighton hit both free throws and kept possession, turning that into a quick layup. In an instant, Creighton’s lead doubled to 76-68 with 1:25 to go.
“I definitely think it had an impact on the game,” Payne said. “To get two free throws and the ball back is very much a momentum changer. I think it was incidental contact. … I just was disappointed that they got the free throws and the ball back.”
CU drained a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch, but Creighton was 8 for 8 at the free throw line in the final minute.
Sparked by Sherrod, the Buffs raced to an 11-2 lead just 3:30 into the game. The Buffs didn’t trail during the first 19 minutes, but Creighton had a 9-0 run in the final 88 seconds of the first half and took a 36-31 lead into intermission. Although CU tied the game in the third and kept it close, the Buffs never got the lead back.
“Kudos to Creighton because they just came back and punched us in the mouth,” Tuitele said. “Whenever we tried to go on a run, they went on an even bigger run.”
Despite Friday’s outcome, the Buffs made a run this season that won’t soon be forgotten. This was their best year since 2012-13 and it was sparked by a quartet of seniors: Finau, Hollingshed, Tuitele and Aubrey Knight, who missed the season with a shoulder injury but was with the team throughout.
“Overall we have to look at the things we’ve been able to accomplish, things we’ve been able to achieve throughout the season and kind of be grateful for being put in this position,” Hollingshed said. “It sucks. We don’t want to ever lose when making it this far. But as (Payne) also said there’s only one team in the country that will win at the end of the season. That’s just something that we have to think about and just cherish each moment that we’ve had.”
What went right: Offensively, the Buffs played well, hitting 44.1 percent of their shots and committing just eight turnovers – their second-lowest total of the season.
What went wrong: Although they had some good moments, overall, the Buffs struggled defensively against a good Creighton offense. Creighton’s point total (84) and field goal percentage (50.9%) were both the best by a CU opponent this season.
Star of the game: Jaylyn Sherrod. The junior point guard had a career-high 27 points and added five assists and five rebounds.
What’s next: CU now looks ahead to the offseason after its season-ending loss to the Bluejays.
Creighton 84, Colorado 74
Bachelor 1-10-0 2, Ronsiek 4-10 1-1 10, Rembao 2-3 2-2 7, Jensen 5-11 6-6 16, Brotzki 3-4 0-0 8, Mogensen 6-11 2-2 16, Saunders 1-1 3-5 5, Maly 7-15 4-4 20, Brake 0-1 0-0 0, Horan 0-0 0-0 0, Dworak 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-57 18-20 84.
Tuitele 3-6 2-2 8, Sherrod 11-15 3-5 27, Formann 1-6 0-0 2, Finau 1-3 0-0 2, Hollingshed 6-17 1-2 15, Wetta 4-14 0-0 8, Miller 4-7 4-4 12, Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Blacksten 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-68 10-13 74.
Creighton 17 19 25 23 – 84
Colorado 21 10 22 21 – 74
3-point field goals – Creighton 8-19 (Maly 2-5, Mogensen 2-3, Brotzki 2-2, Ronsiek 1-4, Rembao 1-2, Jensen 0-3), Colorado 4-19 (Hollingshed 2-6, Sherrod 2-4, Wetta 0-5, Formann 0-2, Tuitele 0-1, Miller 0-1). Rebounds – Creighton 35 (Maly 8), Colorado 32 (Tuitele 9). Assists – Creighton 15 (Ronsiek, Jensen, Brotzki 3), Colorado 16 (Sherrod 5). Steals – Creighton 3 (Ronsiek 2), Colorado 8 (Wetta 3). Turnovers – Creighton 15, Colorado 8. Total fouls – Creighton 11, Colorado 20. Fouled out – None. A – 14,382.
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