Lady Buffs Lose Heartbreaker to No. 11 KSU

The No. 14 University of Colorado women's basketball team saw a first half lead which was once a large as eight evaporate before its eyes, as No. 11 Kansas State used devastating second-half play to overcome the deficit and hold off CU 76-69 Saturday afternoon at the Coors Events Conference Center.

The Lady Wildcats benefited from outstanding offensive efforts from juniors Kendra Wecker and Laurie Koehn; who combined to shoot 14-31 and score 23 and 19 points, respectively.

Colorado senior center Tera Bjorklund dropped 22 on a 7-10 shooting outing, leading a Buffalo offense which clearly dominated the first half of Saturday's game.

Small forward Veronica Johns-Richardson and starting point guard Kate Fagan also did their best to make their presence felt. The junior-senior tandem combined to tally an additional 23 for the Buffs.

In the end, though, it may have been the time that CU's guards spent with the ball that allowed Kansas State a huge Big 12 win on the road.

"We need to realize that Tera's our best post player," CU head coach Ceal Barry said after the loss. "It's kind of a tough way to learn that lesson, but she shot 70 percent. We can't get away from that. We need to make sure she's seeing the ball."

Meanwhile, Kansas State was determined to prove that neither a hostile crowd of over 4,000 nor an altitude gain of 5,000 feet would stand in the way of their second conference win of the season. Both Wecker and Koehn played all 40 minutes in Saturday's win, and three other Wildcats were on the floor for at least 26.

"That was huge. They're in great shape, first of all," Barry said of the KSU starters. "(Wecker and Koehn) go forty minutes, and I can't tell the difference between their first two minutes and their last two. They've got some young guns. Tonight just proves that they're nothing close to a one-dimensional team."

The first half of Saturday's game, though, seemed to emphasize that the Buffs were prepared for an early-season upset.

A pair of three pointers from freshman Emily Waner prompted CU to a 10-4 run after falling behind 7-5 early, and two of three free throws from Bjorklund gave CU a 17-11 advantage with 12:19 remaining in the first.

With the Lady Wildcats in early foul trouble, the Buffaloes continued to extend their lead from the free throw line. Fagan and sophomore small forward Amber Metoyer converted on both of their chances from the charity stripe as the first half rounded the halfway point, and the Buffalo defense allowed Colorado a 23-17 lead with 7:42 to go.

A three from Fagan at the top of the key over KSU guard Megan Mahoney, and a three-point play by Bjorklund on the subsequent possession as the 6-foot-5 senior made a free throw after being fouled on the block, lifted the CU advantage to 30-22 at the 6:00 mark, its largest lead of the half.

Kansas State would just as quickly recover, as long balls on back-to-back possessions from Wecker and Koehn brought KSU to within two less than a minute later.

The margin between the two teams over the last five minutes of the half would not be greater than two either way. Waner's third three-pointer of the first half with 45 seconds to go was countered on the other end as Mahoney converted a transition layup 16 seconds later bringing the Wildcats to within two at the half, 40-38.

Despite lights-out shooting from its guards on the outside (4-7 for 57.1% from three-point range), the bulk of Colorado's first half offense came as a result of the play of Bjorklund on the post. The pre-season All-American dropped 12 for CU in the first, six coming from the free throw line.

The Buffs' success from long range aside, statistical offensive dominance in the first half belonged to Kansas State. The Lady Wildcats shot higher marks than CU from the field (48% to 37%), and from the free throw line (85% to 77%).

Mahoney scored the first five points of the second half for the Lady Wildcats, giving KSU its first lead since the 15:00 mark of the first.

Down three, Colorado rallied to tie the game twice over the next 3:30, as Bjorklund converted an old-fashioned three-point play after being fouled on a post move to even the score at 45-45 with 17:31 left, and then a momentous three from Veronica Johns-Richardson erased CU's third deific of the game, once again evening the score at 48-48 with 16:02 on the clock.

Kansas State would retake the lead shortly thereafter, as Wecker dropped in yet another layup in the midst of an 8-4 KSU run, which culminated in the Lady Wildcats owning a 56-54 lead with 12:20 to go.

The Buffs would trail until 8:24 remained; when Fagan converted both free throws after being fouled driving to the basket, giving CU a slim 60-59 lead with just under 8:30 to go.

It would prove short-lived, though, as Koehn dropped a three from the top of they key to give the Lady Wildcats a three-point advantage. A converted shot in the post by Wecker following a turnover by Kate Fagan on the next possession gave Kansas State its largest lead of the game; a 71-65 edge with 4:36 left.

It seemed that the Buffaloes might be able to climb back into the game as regulation drew to a close, as CU scored on two straight possessions when Metoyer followed a Bjorklund post move with a driving layup through the Kansas State defense; bringing the Buffs back to within two with 2:43 remaining.

Those points, however, would be the last that CU would score in the game, as Kansas State buckled down to force consecutive turnovers from the Buff offense with under a minute to play. Two free throws by Laurie Koehn with 18.3 second to go sealed victory for Kansas State.

Both teams entered Saturday's contest sporting impressive win streaks. The Lady Wildcats have now won nine straight dating back to their victory over Penn State at home on Nov. 7. Meanwhile, CU's early season streak, which started following its first loss of the season at Minnesota on Nov. 23, comes to an end at nine with the loss.

The loss is Colorado's first at home this season, and the first defeat the Buffs have suffered in Boulder since Kansas State upset the Buffs 67-59 on senior night last season.

"You have to put it behind you," Amber Metoyer said. "You can't dwell on a loss like this or it will hurt you for the next 14 games."

CU continues conference play against KSU rival Kansas in Lawrence Tuesday night (6:05 pm). The Lady Buffs then return home for back-to-back games against Missouri (Jan. 18) and Texas A&M (Jan. 21).

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