Try as it might, No. 11 Arizona found it difficult to beat Colorado without injured All-American guard Aari McDonald today at Boulder, Colo., but an angered coach Adia Barnes believed her team did not try hard enough.
“Colorado did a good job of punching us and we didn’t respond,” Barnes said during her postgame radio show. “It comes down to mental toughness. We showed resiliency all year. … Yes, there is adversity (without McDonald). You have to find a way. We kind of laid down. That’s not what we do. We have to regroup.”
McDonald, who missed Friday’s game at Utah, did not play again because of a lower-leg injury and her status is “day to day,” according to the university.
The Wildcats (22-5, 11-5) shot only 24.5 percent from the field and were outrebounded 48-27 by the Buffaloes (16-11, 5-11) in the 50-38 loss. The Wildcats made only 5 of 20 shots from 3-point range.
Arizona, whose four-game winning streak was snapped, did not score in the last 6:35 of the game. It missed its last 10 shots.
“It doesn’t take a smart person to box out and we didn’t do that,” Barnes said of the rebounding disparity that led to Colorado soring 14 second-chance points.
The Wildcats lost for the first time against a Quadrant 2-4 team (No. 51 RPI or lower). It is now 16-1 in that regard. Colorado (No. 89 RPI) is now 1-8 against RPI top 50 teams. The Wildcats have a No. 22 RPI.
Barnes’ team still secured fourth place in the Pac-12 with ASU’s loss at Utah. That means the Wildcats will have a bye in the first round of games in the Pac-12 tournament in two weeks.
Colorado took control when it went on a 9-0 run to go ahead 44-38 with 2:08 left in regulation.
Mya Hollingshed, who led the Buffaloes with 13.7 points per game entering the game, capped the run with her first 3-pointer of the game. She finished with eight points. Jaylyn Sherrod led the Buffaloes with 12 points, making only 2 of 10 shots from the field.
Amari Carter led the Wildcats with 12 points. Sam Thomas finished with seven points, five blocked shots and two steals. Dominique McBryde had five steals. The Wildcats are now 17-2 with McBryde in the starting lineup.
Cate Reese had six rebounds but she made only 1 of 11 shots from the field.
Arizona never found its way on offense, shooting only 28 percent from the floor in the first half. The Wildcats were 4 of 9 from 3-point range and 3 of 16 inside the arc at that point.
Senior guard Lucia Alonso, who had her first start this season with McDonald out, went scoreless and did not even take a shot in 27 minutes. She had a season-high 14 points at Utah.
Helena Pueyo came off the bench to replace Alonso and she led the Wildcats with six points on 2-of-5 shooting, 2 of 3 from 3-point range, in the first half. Pueyo, however, missed her four shot attempts in the second half.
“We were not being aggressive,” Barnes said of the offensive struggles. “We were stagnant … really playing timid and not rising to the occasion. We played scared.
“You have to play with heart.”
The game was tied at the low score of 19-19 at halftime with Colorado not able to do much better from the field. The Buffaloes shot 33.3 percent from the field and was 0 of 7 from beyond the arc.
Arizona came out of the locker room more charged with Reese — who was 0 of 7 from the field in the first half — making her first shot in the second half. McBryde also converted a shot and Arizona led 23-21 with 6:55 left in the third quarter, its first lead since the first quarter.
The third quarter ended with Arizona ahead 31-29. Colorado had 15 turnovers at that point. Arizona was at 28.9 percent shooting from the field.
Colorado went on to outscore Arizona 21-7 in the fourth quarter. The Wildcats were 6 of 28 from the field in the last period, including 1 of 11 from beyond the arc.
The Wildcats return to McKale Center on Friday to play No. 4 Stanford. They end their home schedule and regular season next Sunday against Cal.
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.