DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Frida Formann scored 21 points and Colorado unleashed a torrid 3-point shooting display to roll past Middle Tennessee 82-60 in the NCAA Tournament’s first round Saturday night.
Jaylyn Sherrod added 13 points and Aaronette Vonleh had 11 points for the Buffaloes, who made a season-high 13 shots from beyond the 3-point arc. Seven Colorado players made at least one 3, led by Formann’s 5-for-8 effort.
“If that’s what they’re giving us, I think we’re really good at taking advantage of it,” Formann said.
Sixth-seeded Colorado (24-8), which will be in the second round for the first time since 2003, meets host Duke on Monday.
“We’ve just worked so hard to get here and I’m just happy we’re back on this stage finally,” Formann said.
Anastasiia Boldyreva’s 16 points, Savannah Wheeler’s 15 points and Kseniya Malashka’s 13 points led No. 11 seed Middle Tennessee (28-5), which had won 10 in a row.
“They played extremely well,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Insell said. “We didn’t play that bad.”
The Buffaloes were making 3s pretty much from the opening tip – and they kept shooting them. After hitting seven from long range in the first half, they nailed four more in the first 4½ minutes of the third quarter. Three of those came in a 54-second span, creating a 56-36 lead.
“I think we all came out with just a sense of confidence,” Sherrod said.
The 13 baskets from 3-point range were the most for Colorado in 11 years.
“We were so locked into the game plan for this week,” Colorado coach JR Payne said. “(This) was the best shoot-around we’ve had all year. Our energy, our focus is I think right where it needs to be at this time of year.”
The Buffaloes drained five 3s, two each by Formann and Tayanna Jones, in the first seven minutes to open a 17-6 lead.
“We had them pegged,” Insell said. “We didn’t expect them to go hit that many 3s. We intended to slough off a couple of the shooters.”
Most of the 3s came from in front of the Colorado bench, giving Insell an unfortunate up-close view of the Buffaloes’ accuracy. Jones, playing in her home state, had two 3-pointers in the first quarter after connecting on just nine shots from beyond the arc all season.
“We played pretty good defense,” Insell said. “(Formann) was relocating and we just lost her.”
Colorado made 7 of 16 of its first-half 3s compared with Middle Tennessee’s 1-for-9.
The Buffaloes opened an 11-point lead in the first quarter, aided by hitting five 3s to nearly exceed their season per-game average of 3-pointers.
Middle Tennessee didn’t convert enough off 17 Colorado turnovers.
“Our fight was definitely there,” Wheeler said.
The gap was down to 33-28 with less than two minutes to play in the half before Colorado closed the quarter with a 9-0 burst, capped by Kindyll Wetta’s 3 just a step or two from the sideline in front of the Middle Tennessee bench.
Middle Tennessee: The Conference USA champion Blue Raiders suffered their first four losses of the season by a combined 14 points, but they couldn’t keep up with Colorado’s efficiency. The Blue Raiders have lost their last 10 games in the NCAA Tournament dating to 2007.
Colorado: The Buffaloes might like seeing new opponents at this time of the season. They averaged 65.9 points per game in Pac-12 Conference games, a figure that they exceeded through three quarters in the tournament opener.
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