Nov. 29, 2003
BOULDER, Colo. - California trailed by five points with 2:36 to play, but in the end, lost to 16th-ranked Colorado, 74-63, in the championship game of the 17th-annual Coors Classic Saturday night at the Coors Event Center. The Golden Bears dropped to 3-1, while the Buffaloes improved to 5-1.
"Colorado is a very good ball club," said Cal head coach Caren Horstmeyer. "They have a weapon at every position. At the same time, I thought we did a great job defensively against them. When they could have opened up the game, we tightened up our defense, made some plays and hit some big shots. We haven't been in a situation like this too often where we've been able to cut a lead to five points with 2:36 to play against a nationally ranked team on the road. We did that."
Senior guard Nihan Anaz led Cal with 17 points, her fourth-consecutive double-digit scoring performance. Senior guard LaTasha O'Keith contributed 15, including a team-high nine in the first half, and junior forward Leigh Gregory had 14.
"I think we played very hard," said Anaz. "It's their home court, and we fought to the end. We played well. We made some mistakes at the end. Last year, at our house, we lost by 19 points. We've improved a lot. This year, we play like a team and will be one of the top teams in the Pac-10 if we play like this."
A back-door layup from Anaz brought the Bears to within 63-58 with 2:36 left and had a chance to cut the margin to two or three on their next possession but turned the ball over. Kate Fagan hit a long trey just before the shot clock expired to help the Buffaloes pull ahead 68-58, and Cal was forced to foul to stop the clock. CU nailed 6-of-6 free throws to seal the victory.
Cal led 11-10 with 12:51 to play in the first half following O'Keith's second layup of the game. Colorado then went on a 15-0 run, keyed by two three pointers and a three-point play, to lead 25-11, with 7:32 until halftime.
The Bears were able to close the gap to seven at 27-20 with a three-point basket from O'Keith with the shot clock running down. With 1:49 left until the break, O'Keith grabbed a steal at mid-court and went all the way in for the layup to pull the Bears to within 31-23. The Buffaloes went to the locker room with a 36-25 advantage.
Colorado led 40-27 less than two minutes into the second half when Cal made its move. Anaz tallied six points in an 8-0 run which cut the Buffaloes' lead to 40-35. Colorado built its lead back to nine on a three-point shot from Emily Waner. But, Kristin Iwanaga made her first shot attempt of the day - a three pointer - to pull Cal to within 48-42 with 11:32 left in the game. The Bears' offense went cold for three minutes, allowing the Buffaloes to gradually extend their lead to 55-43 at the eight minute media timeout. Cal never let the game get beyond reach and was in contention to post the upset down the stretch.
Four Colorado players scored in double figures, led by tournament MVP Tera Bjorklund's 21 points. Waner posted 14, and Randie Wirt and Fagan had 13 each. Wirt also was selected to the all-tournament team.
Anaz and Iwanaga, who led the Bears with 17 points against Lehigh last night, were picked to the all-tournament team for the Bears.
Cal outshot Colorado from the floor 48.1 percent to 41.3 percent. The difference in the game was that the Bears committed a season-high 30 turnovers, while the Buffaloes had 18. Despite being a smaller team overall, Cal held a 38-30 advantage on the glass, led by eight boards from Gregory.
Cal play at No. 5 Texas Tech on Monday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. CT before returning home to Berkeley on Tuesday.