Adia Barnes was not going to gloss over this one.
Leaving 10 points at the free-throw line with a 10-for-20 performance, including 0-for-6 from starting backcourt Shaina Pellington and Lauren Fields, was costly in the 72-65 loss in front of 1,974 at the CU Events Center.
Arizona was also outrebounded by Colorado 48-29 with former Arizona post player Aaronette Vonleh part of the problem grabbing nine rebounds to go with her 14 points.
The Wildcats’ defensive breakdowns allowed Colorado to get 16 points in transition despite the Buffaloes having only five steals in the game.
Arizona (14-3, 4-2 Pac-12) also didn’t respond after Pellington fouled out with 2:10 remaining.
Five missed shots while getting outscored 10-2 in that stretch spelled doom.
Barnes’ comments in the KTUC 1400-AM postgame show:
“We didn’t deserve to win. They outmuscled us and outhustled us.”
“We have to get tougher. We need to have more of a sense of urgency.”
“If you’re not making free throws, get in the gym and shoot extra.”
“If you can’t guard, you’re not going to play and we have people who don’t have any focus on defense. … That’s not the way we play. We’re going to mix some things up. … We’re not the biggest, we’re not the smartest, we’re not the toughest, so we have to be able to pay attention to detail.”
“We can’t start games slow like this so that just tells me it’s a problem with our lineup. We don’t have the right combinations. It’s not working.”
The Wildcats couldn’t get the lead for most of the game after scoring the first basket of the game.
They rallied back from as far down as 12 points and didn’t trail by more than five points in the fourth quarter until Esmery Martinez finally scored in the fourth quarter with two 3-pointers, the second one tying the game at 59 with 4:30 left.
Pellington’s layup in the next possession put Arizona ahead 61-59 with 3:26 remaining.
Vonleh answered with a layup for Colorado, which defeated ranked teams in consecutive weeks for the first time since 2007-08 season. The Buffaloes (14-3, 5-1) upset No. 10 Utah last weekend at home.
After Colorado led 62-61, Pellington made a basket while being fouled with 2:25 left. She missed the free throw — she was 0 of 4 in the game.
Pellington then drew her questionable fifth foul with 2:10 left while guarding the ballhandler.
“Shaina fouled out on an atrocious call,” Barnes said. “I’m not blaming the refs although I think the calls were very bad. … That’s not why we lost the game.”
Pellington had 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting with four assists. Without her on the court, Arizona looked out of sync in the last couple of minutes.
Frida Formann followed an Arizona turnover with a 3-pointer and Quay Miller converted on a 3-point play in the next position to enable Colorado to pull away to a 68-63 lead with 52 seconds remaining.
Formann’s two free throws with 29 seconds left sealed the win.
Arizona had a couple of dubious marks in the first quarter — scoring a season-low eight points with its largest deficit at the end of the quarter, down 18-8.
“Just thought we didn’t make free throws and we came out slow,” Barnes said. “We had no sense of urgency and you’re not going to win on the road playing like we did.”
Arizona trailed 22-10 early in the second quarter before outscoring the Buffaloes 16-7 to make it a close game.
Colorado, which led 31-29 at halftime, led throughout the third quarter with Arizona falling behind by as many as eight points.
A 3-pointer by Martinez — her first basket of the game– with 8:08 left cut the lead to 53-51.
Cate Reese finished with 14 points and nine rebounds and Jade Loville and Madison Conner each added 12.
Conner’s productive string of games off the bench reached four with her performance in 26 minutes against the Buffaloes.
“At least she’s aggressive, she’s going to the basket, she’s giving us a spark, she’s alive,” Barnes said of Conner. “We don’t have a sense of urgency. She comes in and gives us sustained (minutes).”
Arizona next plays at No. 10 Utah on Sunday at noon. The Utes rested Friday ahead of that game because of Arizona State forfeiting its scheduled game at Utah due to a lack of eligible players.
“We have to forget about it,” Barnes said of Friday’s loss. “If we sulk on it, we’re not going to win Sunday. We have to get better.
“We’ll try to find a way to rest and recover a little bit and come back with a new focus that we didn’t have tonight.”
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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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.