You could tell by the expression on Colorado women's basketball coach Linda Lappe's face. Her young team had a golden opportunity in front of itself on Sunday afternoon, facing 24th-ranked Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The Buffaloes hung with the Hawkeyes for a while but a combination of missed shots, turnovers and errant free throws caught up to Colorado. In the end, Iowa pulled away for a 78-63 victory in front of 6,061 fans.
Yes, this one hurt. Colorado, which had been averaging 82 points a game, came up short in its first true road test of the season.
But what made it sting a little bit more was the fact that it happened just 55 miles from Morning Sun, Iowa, the place Lappe grew up. And it happened in front of a throng of family and friends who made their way to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to see Lappe's team.
She dearly wanted to put on a better show for the hometown folks, who got to watch the Buffaloes take another step in the growing process.
Instead, the Hawkeyes put a damper on Lappe's homecoming.
So yes, this one hurt a little more for Lappe. But all that hurt was soon washed away as she spent time talking to family and friends for nearly an hour after the game had ended.
"You have to give Iowa a lot of credit," said Lappe, who is in her fifth season at Colorado. "They came out and I thought really their spurt to end the first half and to start the second half was the difference in the game. We didn't come out after halftime like we needed to, especially on the defensive end, rebounding the basketball. "
Iowa (7-2), which came off a 34-point drubbing at the hands of 10th-ranked Louisville on Thursday, broke the game open with 23-12 run during the final minutes of the first half and beginning of the second.
Colorado (6-2) shot just 38.8 percent for the game and made just 53.3 percent of its free throws. That, combined with 19 turnovers, made the Buffaloes' job nearly impossible.
The Buffaloes also got into early foul trouble, which forced Lappe to use some rotations she hadn't used this season. And the Hawkeyes took advantage.
"There are so many different rotations that we maybe haven't had to use in the past and it takes the players out of their rhythm, both offensively and defensively," Lappe said. "We want to be tough. We want to make other teams do some different things and really it was tough to do that today."
While it wasn't the performance Lappe was hoping for from her team in her homecoming, it was another step in the learning process for a young team which is growing up before her eyes.
Still, Lappe wasn't letting the loss spoil her homecoming. Sure, this one stung. But there was a long plane ride home to talk things over and just five days to get ready for the next game on Friday night at Missouri.
"We have a lot of family here, a lot of friends. I'm really appreciative that they were able to come. I'm excited to go talk to them here in a little bit. It was exciting to be back in Iowa. It's a great state and definitely to be here coaching and to play against a quality team like Iowa," she said.