Colorado coach Linda Lappe knew the Buffaloes couldn't afford any lapses in the second half.
"Playing Stanford is not a sprint, it's a marathon. There are a lot of teams that have been ahead of them at the half this year, and really ahead of them middle of the way in the second half," Lappe said. "I thought we lost our focus to start the second half."
Chiney Ogwumike scored 13 of her 19 points in the second half, including a rare 3 that gave Stanford the lead for good, and the fourth-ranked Cardinal overcame their worst scoring first half of the season to knock off pesky Colorado 69-54 on Friday in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
Ogwumike's 3-pointer gave Stanford (29-2) the lead for good at 30-28. It was part of a 16-2 run by the Cardinal to take control after they were held to a season-low 21 points in the first half.
"At this point with your conference teams, they've scouted you. They've played against you for three or four years twice a year," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "So I think that this is the best preparation for the NCAA Tournament. They're going to make you do things that maybe aren't comfortable. They put you out of your comfort zone a little bit. I think that Colorado did that a little bit to us."
Colorado (17-14) was led by 16 points from Brittany Wilson and 10 points from Haley Smith.
Colorado did its best to deny Ogwumike open looks on the inside and also did a good job in the first half of not letting her dominate the offensive boards. Ogwumike was 2 of 6 from the field and had just one offensive rebound. Meanwhile, none of the Cardinal outside shooters could get going to open up space for her.
Bonnie Samuelson was 1 of 6 shooting and missed all four 3-point attempts. Stanford was 1 of 10 from behind the 3-point line in the first half and shot 24 percent overall.
But Colorado couldn't create separation because the Buffaloes shot 27 percent. Wilson's 3 with 38 seconds left gave Colorado a 23-21 lead, and Stanford trailed at halftime for the fifth time this season.
Stanford erupted in the second half outscoring Colorado 48-31, starting to knock down perimeter shots. Lili Thompson finished with 16 points and Samuelson added 15.
The trigger for Stanford was Ogwumike's 3-pointer. She had attempted only nine 3s all season and made two, knocked down an open 3 to give Stanford the lead for good at 30-28. Thompson then scored the next eight points for the Cardinal, including a fallaway while being fouled. The three-point play gave the Cardinal a 38-30 lead with 15:12 remaining.
The Cardinal lead reached 19 before a late Colorado run.
Meanwhile, after using the 3-pointer to hang around in the first half, Colorado went cold from long range in the second half. The Buffaloes hit just 2 of 11 3s in the final 20 minutes.
"I essentially felt like I got the same looks," Wilson said. "My legs just were short, a couple of them were in and out. My shots just were starting to fall short, but I essentially feel like I got the same shots I did in the first half. My legs just didn't carry me through this time."