No. 5 Colorado rallies past Arizona State with Vonleh’s 20 points

The No. 5 Colorado Buffaloes overcame a sluggish start and a 16-point deficit to defeat the Arizona State Sun Devils 81-68 on Saturday night. Aaronette Vonleh led the way with 20 points and nine rebounds, while Jaylyn Sherrod added 18 points and seven assists.

Colorado’s comeback fueled by defense and rebounding

The Buffaloes (14-1, 4-0 Pac-12) trailed 40-24 with 3:43 left in the first half, as the Sun Devils (9-6, 1-3) shot 56% from the field and 50% from the 3-point line. However, Colorado closed the half on a 10-0 run, sparked by a steal and a layup by Sherrod, to cut the deficit to six at the break.

In the second half, Colorado turned up the defensive intensity and dominated the boards, holding Arizona State to 28% shooting and outrebounding them 25-11. The Buffaloes took their first lead of the game at 51-50 with 13:19 left, on a 3-pointer by Kindyll Wetta, who finished with 15 points. Colorado then used a 17-4 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Frida Formann, who had 14 points, to extend the lead to 68-54 with 7:36 remaining.

Colorado coach JR Payne praised her team’s resilience and toughness, saying, “I’m really proud of our team for fighting back from such a big hole. We didn’t panic, we just kept playing hard and together. We made some adjustments on defense and rebounding, and that made a huge difference.”

Vonleh shines in her best game as a Buff

Vonleh, a 6-foot-4 sophomore transfer from Oregon, had her best game in a Colorado uniform, scoring 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, grabbing nine rebounds, and blocking two shots. She also made four clutch free throws in the final minute to seal the win.

No. 5 Colorado rallies past Arizona

Vonleh said she was motivated by the challenge of facing Arizona State’s physical frontcourt, which included 6-foot-6 senior Jaddan Simmons, who had 16 points and eight rebounds. “I knew I had to be aggressive and confident, and not back down from anyone. I just tried to play hard and help my team win. I think we showed a lot of heart and character tonight.”

Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley rues missed opportunities

The Sun Devils, who had won four of their last five games, including an upset over No. 7 UCLA, could not sustain their hot shooting or their energy in the second half. They also committed 18 turnovers, which led to 23 points for the Buffaloes.

Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said he was disappointed with his team’s performance, especially after building a big lead in the first half. “We let them off the hook. We had them on the ropes, and we didn’t finish them. We got careless with the ball, we missed some shots, and we let them get back in the game. They outplayed us in every aspect in the second half. They were more physical, more aggressive, and more hungry.”

Hurley also gave credit to Vonleh, who he said was the difference-maker for Colorado. “She was a beast. She was unstoppable in the paint, and she made some big plays down the stretch. We had no answer for her. She was the best player on the floor tonight.”

Colorado remains unbeaten in Pac-12 play

The Buffaloes, who are ranked No. 5 in the AP poll, improved to 4-0 in the Pac-12, tied with No. 3 Stanford for the best record in the conference. They have won eight straight games, and 14 of their last 15, since losing to No. 1 South Carolina in November.

Colorado will look to extend its winning streak when it hosts No. 9 Oregon on Monday, in a showdown of two of the top teams in the Pac-12. The Buffaloes have not beaten the Ducks since 2016, and have lost the last seven meetings by an average of 23 points.

Sherrod said she was excited for the opportunity to face Oregon, and to prove that Colorado is a legitimate contender in the Pac-12 and the nation. “We’re ready for them. We’re not afraid of anyone. We know they’re a great team, but so are we. We have a lot of talent, a lot of depth, and a lot of heart. We’re going to give them our best shot, and see what happens.”

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