Carrying a perfect record through eight games is nice, but for a team striving for much more, the Colorado women’s basketball team knows its game has to get better.
On Friday night, the Buffaloes rolled past Dixie State, 78-53, led by Quay Miller’s 20 points, but it wasn’t one that left them celebrating.
“We really want to be excellent all the time,” head coach JR Payne said. “We want to just play great basketball all the time and we still have a ways to go in that regard. It’s early in the season still. We just really want to be great and so we’ve got to keep striving for that.”
At times on Friday, the Buffs (8-0) were great. At other times, they were not, and that’s the lack of consistency that bothers Payne and the players at this point.
Prior to expressing her thoughts in the postgame locker room, Payne asked the players what they thought. Senior Peanut Tuitele pointed to the lack of consistency. Junior Jaylyn Sherrod echoed that sentiment.
The inconsistency didn’t hurt the Buffs on Friday, as they were never in danger of losing to the Trailblazers (2-5). CU took a double-digit lead for good late in the second quarter. Tuitele scored eight of her 12 points during a 12-2 run early in the third that stretched the lead to 26. CU led by as many as 31.
Huge leads have been common for the Buffs so far this season, but it’s also been common that they’ll take the foot off the gas with that lead. That was the case again Friday, as the defensive intensity, in particular, dropped in the second half.
“I don’t think it should be hard (to maintain with a big lead),” Tuitele said. “We need to set an expectation and whether we’re down by 20, or up by 20, we need to maintain that. And (whoever is the) next name up, they need to maintain it as well. Because, as coach said, we’re striving to be excellent. We’re striving to be a (NCAA) Tournament team, and we can’t let up when we’re up by 20. That’s unacceptable for us.”
For now, the Buffs are happy to work through their inconsistency while winning going away and Friday was another in a string of dominating performances.
CU still hasn’t allowed more than 53 points in any game this season. Dixie State had 47 until hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the final 42 seconds. This was also the Buffs’ seventh win by double digits.
Leading the way was Miller, a transfer from Washington who scored her season-high in points, including 10 points in the fourth quarter. She was 9-for-13 from the floor and added six rebounds and three assists.
“It was fun,” Miller said. “I think that my team helped play a major role in that 20, knowing that I’m hot and getting me the ball and setting me up in great positions to score. I love them for that.”
Miller, who comes off the bench, has now scored in double-figures three times this season.
“(The team is) just keeping me motivated, even throughout games where I go scoreless, or where I’m not having the best game and they encouraged me to do something else to make up for that,” she said. “I think that was the biggest part in my 20-point game tonight.”
Fellow Washington transfer Tameiya Sadler added 10 points off the bench, while Mya Hollingshed had 11 points and five rebounds. Kylee Blacksten contributed with seven points and three rebounds.
As the Buffs put the cap on a 6-0 homestand, however, Payne said they will keep striving for a consistent level of excellence.
“I think that’s the next step,” she said. “A really mature, really veteran team will do that no matter what. But it is difficult (with big leads) and I will say our group maybe hasn’t had a ton of experience with that over the years.
“It’s not just me; we all want to be great. That’s the next step for us. … I think the fact that we’re all on the same page in that regard speaks really well for where we’re capable of going.”
Under Payne, the Buffs are 54-5 against nonconference opponents, including 36-2 at home. … CU has won 23 consecutive home games against nonconference opponents.
What went right: CU pulled away in the middle quarters by dominating in the paint (48-18 scoring advantage) and turning 20 Dixie State turnovers into 25 points.
What went wrong: The defense wasn’t sharp during the second half, as Dixie State scored 35 points after the break while hitting on 13-of-27 of its shots (48.1%).
Star of the game: Quay Miller. Coming off the bench, she had a season-high 20 points, along with six rebounds and three assists.
What’s next: The Buffs will visit Southern Utah on Tuesday.
Colorado 78, Dixie State 53
DIXIE STATE (2-5)
Isaacson 3-8 0-0 9, Mad. Warren 1-8 2-2 5, Mac. Warren 3-7 1-2 8, Sireni 1-4 1-1 3, Gillen 6-14 1-2 14, McCord 2-3 0-0 6, Stimpson 3-4 0-0 8, Camacho 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-50 5-7 53.
Tuitele 6-7 0-0 12, Sherrod 3-6 0-0 6, Formann 1-4 2-2 4, Finau 0-5 0-0 0, Hollingshed 5-10 0-0 11, Jones 2-5 2-2 6, Miller 9-13 1-3 20, Sadler 3-5 2-2 10, Blacksten 3-6 0-0 7, Wetta 1-2 0-0 2, Singer 0-0 0-0 0, Gerber 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 33-64 7-9 78.
Dixie State 10 8 20 15 – 53
Colorado 19 15 25 19 – 78
3-point field goals – DSU 10-30 (Isaacson 3-7, McCord 2-3, Stimpson 2-3, Mad. Warren 1-8, Mac. Warren 1-3, Gillen 1-3, Sireni 0-2, Camacho 0-1), Colorado 5-20 (Sadler 2-3, Hollingshed 1-4, Miller 1-3, Blacksten 1-3, Formann 0-3, Finau 0-2, Jones 0-1, Taylor 0-1). Rebounds – DSU 23 (Isaacson 5), Colorado 40 (Jones 8). Assists – DSU 10 (Mad. Warren, Gillen 4). Colorado 17 (Sherrod, Miller, Sadler 3). Steals – DSU 2 (Mac. Warren, Gillen 1), Colorado 8 (Finau 3). Turnovers – DSU 20, Colorado 13. Total fouls – DSU 12, Colorado 14. Fouled out – None. A – 956.