LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The Colorado women’s basketball team pulled off a huge 92-78 upset victory over No. 1 LSU here at T-Mobile Arena Monday night, taking down the reigning national champions.

The Buffaloes embraced the challenge of taking on LSU despite the Tigers adding the top-two transfers in the country to an already stacked roster this offseason. From the tip-off to the final buzzer, Colorado didn’t look fazed by any means.

“For a game like this that a large part of the world said no to and a large part of the world said why would you play that game? It was everything that we wanted,” head coach JR Payne stated after the win. “We wanted a challenge and we wanted to take our team into the national spotlight so that I can show the world how great they are. I’m really proud of how we played, proud of how we competed and it’s a great start to the year.”

The Buffs were led by Frida Formann, Jaylyn Sherrod and Aaronette Vonleh, who all returned to the Buffs from last year’s Sweet 16 squad. Formann was lights out from behind the arc tonight, making a school-record seven 3-pointers to help her set a career-high of 27 points. She added five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Vonleh was Colorado’s second-leading scorer with 24 points on 11-15 shooting from the field.

Sherrod had an amazing performance in all phases of the game. She scored 19 points while recording eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. Sherrod’s leadership and energy didn’t show up on the stat sheet but it was crucial for Colorado’s upset victory.

The Buffs kept it a tight game for the entire first half with the biggest deficit they faced being six points in the second quarter. After Sherrod returned from a hard fall, Colorado saw a spark, started to gain momentum and took the lead.

From that point on, the Buffs didn’t look back and found themselves defeating the No. 1 team in the nation by a respectable margin. Colorado’s defense was all over the place tonight, totaling 11 steals and three blocks while forcing LSU into committing 19 turnovers. The offense shot 53.2% from the field and 43.5% from three-point range which served to be too much for LSU to handle.

Colorado started the game aggressive on both sides of the floor, taking an early 6-2 lead. LSU answered with an 8-0 scoring run while the Buffs struggled offensively, going scoreless for almost four minutes.

A three-pointer by Formann with 1:29 left in the quarter brought Colorado within one at 14-13. At the end of the first quarter, the Tigers held a 16-14 lead.

With 7:43 remaining in the second, Sherrod took a big hit to the head which led to a media timeout. Sherrod started to make her way to the locker room, but managed to stay on the bench.

Shortly after Sherrod returned to the court, she converted an AND-1 layup and sunk the free throw to put the Buffs within two at 24-22. Colorado then took a 25-24 lead on a 7-0 run as LSU had made just one of its previous seven field goals.

With 2:15 to go in the first half, a corner three by Sara-Rose Smith gave the Buffs a seven-point lead at 32-25. The Tigers were able to start scoring again as both teams traded buckets back-and-forth in the final minutes.

At halftime, Colorado held a 38-32 lead while shooting 47% from the field. Sherrod led the Buffs in scoring at the break with 12 points, all of which came in the second quarter.

Colorado started to pull away a little bit in the third quarter, outscoring the Tigers 10-4 within the first thee and a half minutes. At the 4:40 mark, however, LSU came back within six points at 49-43. Formann helped the Buffs put an end to the comeback threat as she hit three 3-pointers to put CU up 63-51 heading into the fourth.

While up by 11 in the final quarter, Colorado went on an 11-0 scoring run to take its largest lead of the night at 77-55. During that run, the Tigers were unable to score for 2:19. The Buffs’ lead was too much for LSU to come back from as Colorado notched a 92-78 victory.

With 2:15 remaining in the first half, Smith caught a pass from Tameiya Sadler and knocked down a corner 3-pointer. The triple gave the Buffs a seven-point lead and helped Colorado to go into halftime up 38-32.

With the win over LSU: the Buffs are now 3-2 all-time against LSU…it’s the first time since 1995-96 that the defending national champion/No. 1 team lost their season opener…it is Colorado’s fourth win over a No. 1 team CU athletics history, the second for the women’s basketball team and the first time away from Boulder…it is the second largest margin of victory over a top-five team…it is the most points scored over a top-five team and second most over a top-10 team…it is the ninth time Colorado has scored 90 points against a ranked team…CU improved to 45-5 all-time in season openers and hasn’t lost an opener since 1999.

JR Payne
On what this win means

“We have so many incredible young women in our program. They are just absolutely awesome. So for me to have them on a national stage where I know how great they are, I want the world to know how great they are. They’re great teammates, they’re great students, they compete, they’re totally fearless. So for me, I want the world to know and we did that today.”

On being physical with Angel Reese
“I think for the most part, we are a pretty physical team. We’re always the underdog. We don’t have a single five-star kid or McDonald’s All-American so we’re built on toughness. We’re built on game plans and executing and things like that. So it wasn’t necessarily Angel Reese in particular, we just wanted to play our style of basketball.”

On Aaronette Vonleh’s performance
“That’s one thing that we love about our ballclub is we do have tremendous balance. We can play inside, we can also play outside. I think we have some individuals that are really tough to guard one-on-one and so when you can space shooters around a player like Aaronette it’s tough because she is extremely dominant. It was really, really great to see her play the way she did today. She could do that every night, we believe that strongly that she is that good. So really neat to see her do that on a stage like this.”

On the fans
“I thought the crowd support was incredible. Behind our bench we had a lot of CU supporters. We had fans and donors and family members and staff. A lot of people came down to support us during this game. And then the others that you’re speaking of, the Las Vegas community, I think showed out. I think they like Pac-12 basketball, our tournament has been here and I think this community really supports women’s basketball.”

On not backing down
“Coach T [Toriano Towns] did a really great job with the scouting report. So we talked about LSU a fair amount this week, obviously, but as we got closer and closer to the game, our attention turned more towards ourselves, as far as what do we need to do to be successful? And so I think when you have that mindset and that kind of internal focus of doing your job, executing, knowing the game plan, staying together and things like that it allows you to face adversity or a run or something like that with good composure.”

On the opening minutes of the third quarter
“I think we, again, re-centered ourselves at halftime on what do we need to do to continue to be successful? Don’t get outside of ourselves. Don’t just play great basketball one possession at a time and I think that allowed us to continue playing the way we were. It was really important.”

On switching to zone defense in the second half
“Coach T is our defensive coordinator and he’s awesome. We’re good defensively every year and he does a great job with that. I think he actually was just trying to irritate Jaylyn by playing two, because it’s not her favorite. I’m kidding. But I think he knew that if we needed to have a different look defensively, that that was something we could go to, although we haven’t practiced it in like two weeks. So I didn’t think he would go to it, but it was a good change of pace for us.”

On Kim Mulkey saying CU is playing LSU at the right time
“Yeah, I think our veterans, these guys in particular, Aaronette [Vonleh], Quay [Miller], Tameiya [Sadler] we do have a lot of veterans and that’s partly why we wanted this game and why we’ve scheduled such a challenging preseason schedule. We have a lot of tough games on our schedule and so I think our veterans carried us, they’ll continue to carry us and it’s just a great start for the season.”

Frida Formann
On how big the basket looked tonight

“I guess very big. When I’m in that mode it’s just hitting my hands and I’m just shooting it. And with this team too, we know who’s getting hot so I just know that the ball is gonna find me and my shot is gonna be there.”

On Aaronette Vonleh’s performance
“Before the game I just told her to be in attack mode all the time. Every time she got the ball, you could see she was looking to get her own and that’s what we need from her, because she really is unstoppable. We play against her in practice every day and it’s tough to guard her.”

On the opening minutes of the third quarter
“As a team, we were really good at just taking one minute at a time. It felt like such a long game because we really were so locked in by possession by possession and that’s how we came out in the half too.”

Jaylyn Sherrod
On driving the basket when seeing certain matchups

“No, honestly, I just didn’t feel like I came out being aggressive and I didn’t come out being myself. I started thinking things through and trying to settle into the first game. So I settled in and once I did, I just did what I do, which is driving to the basket. So I think it was just me settling into the game.”

On not backing down
“Actually me and coach J [JR Payne], Frida was on that team too, beat Stanford and I actually watched that press conference before this game and I remember talking then about how we just made our minds up. I think tonight, that was the mentality for all of us. We just made our minds up that no matter what we’re gonna go out there and compete and we weren’t going to lose. I felt that across the board from coaches, teammates, family, fans, everybody believed that was with us. To be honest, that’s all we ever needed on this team. When we make our minds up and we believe in ourselves, I think we can truly be unstoppable so I think that was just what tonight was about.”


Story by Colin Wagner, associate for Content courtesy of the University of Colorado at Boulder.