It has been 19 years since the Colorado women's basketball team went undefeated in home games. Under third-year coach Linda Lappe, the Buffs are inching closer to making it a realistic goal to end that streak.
Yes, that includes beating Pac-12 Conference stalwart Stanford, a perennial top-five program, when it comes to Boulder.
The Buffs are not there yet having already suffered two home losses, but they're much closer than they were just a year ago.
CU, ranked No. 21 in this week's Associated Press poll, struggled with Arizona State at the Coors Events Center on Friday night before eventually pulling away. It was the kind of game previous CU teams over the past seven or eight years have found a way to lose.
The fact that these Buffs won is another sign this program is legitimately emerging from the doldrums it has slogged through much of the past decade and is becoming nationally relevant again.
"We have a better team this year," Lappe said. "I think that always helps. Better players make everything a lot easier. Our players have stepped up to the challenge they've come to practice hard every day. We can play a lot of different lineups, a lot of different players. Last year I felt like we would get tired sometimes in the second half. It doesn't happen this year because we have so many great players off the bench that can contribute minutes in the first half or whether it's in the second half. That allows us to pull away in the second half like we've done a lot of times."
But the Buffs can't be satisfied with getting over another minor hump in their resurgence, and Lappe will do her best not to let them feel too good about it. This is a program with plenty left to prove after all.
Lappe didn't hesitate to set the bar high at the beginning of the season. CU's goal is to play NCAA Tournament games on its home floor in two months. A good way to make that happen is winning the remaining five home games in Pac-12 Conference play. All five are games the Buffs should be favored to win.
CU earned its 14th victory of the season Friday. Five more wins at home and stealing a few on the road will put it over 20 wins and that should be enough to earn a spot in March Madness.
But this isn't just about this season.
If the Buffs want to eventually compete for the Pac-12 championship and recruits with Stanford and other elite programs, they have to own the Coors Events Center. They have to make it a place opponents dread coming to play. They have to do what Tad Boyle and the CU men's team has done in the same building. Under Boyle, the Buffs are 39-5 at home.
The women's team is 10-2 at home this season with its only two losses coming to No. 6 Stanford and No. 7 California. So far, the Buffs have shown dramatic improvement from last year at home. They were 3-6 in Pac-12 home games last season with some bad losses to teams such as Utah and Oregon.
There are still five opportunities for them to stumble at home this season, but these Buffs have a different sense of confidence and it seems doubtful that will happen.
Lappe recently challenged the her team to take the next step by raising their level of execution and intensity a notch above what it was in November and December and even earlier this month. The Buffs seem to have responded well to that challenge.
It won't be the last time this season Lappe asks them to shift to higher gear. Eventually she won't have to ask that question until much later in the season and it won't be before or during a home game.
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