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Colorado uses strong second half to down Drake 86-72 in NCAA first round

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Aaronette Vonleh had 18 points and 10 rebounds to lead fifth-seeded Colorado to an 86-72 victory over 12th-seed Drake in the first round of the women's NCAA Tournament on Friday night.

The Buffaloes will face fourth-seeded Kansas State in the second round Sunday.

Colorado (23-9) also got 16 points from Jaylyn Sherrod and Kindyll Wetta, and Maddie Nolan had 12. The Buffs held a 39-18 advantage on the boards.

“Sometimes it’s harder to go against undersized post players,” Vonleh said. “They can easily draw charges, but I was focused on limiting (Anna Miller's) touches to avoid getting (into) foul trouble. And then just being aggressive on offense to take advantage of that mismatch.”

Drake (29-6) got 24 points from Katie Dinnebier. Courtney Becker added 14 and Taylor McAulay had 13.

Colorado coach JR Payne was nervous coming into the game, because Drake is different from any opponent they faced all season.

“(They have) the motion that they ran with the five-out system, (with) constant cutting. (They have) five players on the floor at all times that can shoot the ball.

"(And) just the pace at which they play. We have some fast teams, we have some athletic teams, but no one that runs that five-out continuous cutting, moving, shooting. That’s something that’s different for us.”

Even with the defeat, Drake coach Allison Pohlman was proud of the Bulldogs' effort.

“I'm really excited about this team and the byproduct of what they’ve done the entire year to get to 29 wins for the first time in program history," she said. "We would really have liked to get it to 30.”

The Buffaloes opened the third quarter with a 14-3 run to grab a 60-44 lead midway through the quarter. Drake had a chance to cut the deficit to single digits, but Anna Miller missed two free throws trailing 60-49. The Buffs scored the next seven points to open their largest lead of the game to that point. They led 71-53 at the end of the third quarter. Colorado held Dinnebier scoreless in the third quarter.

“They’re just really good team and they played like a really good team,” Dinnebier said. “I think our whole offense just got a little bit stagnant there in the third quarter. Our shots weren’t falling and we just didn’t have an answer for that.”

Drake didn't get closer than 13 points in the final quarter.

“It’s nice to get the with first one out of the way," Wetta said. "But I wouldn’t say it's a sigh of relief. We still have another game to take care of. And that one is even more important, because we want to get back to the Sweet 16 and go further than we did last year.”

Drake jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but it didn't take long for Colorado to respond. When Sherrod converted a tradiitonal 3-point play, the Buffaloes led 13-11. Colorado took a 24-21 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Buffaloes extended the lead to 12 points on a 3-pointer by Tameiya Sadler and a layup by Sherrod with 7:09 left in the second quarter. But this time Drake responded. The Bulldogs cut it to 42-41 with 2:32 left.

The Buffaloes took a 46-41 lead to the locker room. They were led by Vonleh with 14 points and 8 each from Sherrod and Nolan.

Drake was led by Dinnebier, who had 18 points.

BIG PICTURE

Drake: The Bulldogs needed more production from players other than Dinnebier, especially in the first half, when she scored almost half her team's points.

Colorado: The Buffaloes' size and pressure gave Drake fits. The Buffs had big advantages on the boards and in points off turnovers.

UP NEXT

Colorado will face Kansas State (26-7) in the second round on Sunday.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness