CU women's basketball preview: Omni Classic

MATCHUP: UMass Minutemen (1-2) at Colorado Buffaloes (2-1). Florida (3-1) plays Ball State (2-1) Friday at 5 p.m. Winners play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. following consolation game (5 p.m.).

CU GAME TIME: Today, 7:30 p.m., Coors Events Center.

BROADCAST: Radio — 760 AM (also 740 AM in Colorado Springs); TV — None.

COACHES: UMass: Sharon Dawley, sixth year (35-117; 300-265 overall); Colorado: Linda Lappe, sixth year (100-70, 148-105 overall).

LEADERS: UMass — Scoring: G Bria Stallworth, Fr., 17.0 ppg; Rebounding: F Rashida Timbilla, Sr., 12.0 rpg; Assists: G Cierra Dillard, So., 4.0 rpg. Colorado — Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, Fr., 13.3 ppg; Rebounding: F Jamee Swan, Sr., 7.3 rpg; Assists: Leonard, 7.3 apg.

NOTABLE: CU has shot a solid .462 (18-for-39) from 3-point range, an effort led by Alexis Robinson (5-for-9) and Lauren Huggins (8-for-13) put together three consecutive wins after opening the season with a two-point loss at Southern Illinois ... Freshman guard Kennedy Leonard has put together a superb start, averaging 13.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 7.3 assists. Leonard also has made 9-of-12 free throws while committing only nine turnovers, despite assuming the primary ball-handler role as a freshman.


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Say this for Colorado women's basketball player Zoe Beard-Fails. Just barely into her third season with the Buffaloes, and already she can say she will proudly display the battle scars from her time with the Buffs throughout her life.

Let it be known if there is a wayward elbow mixing it up in the paint, chances are it's going to land a telling blow upon Beard-Fails.

Waylaid by a broken nose a year ago, Beard-Fails was struck again Sunday, as an inadvertent elbow left the junior forward with a bloody gash on her right eyebrow that required a pair of stitches.

A player who clearly brings an element of toughness to the Buffs' rotation, Beard-Fails will look to continue her solid start this weekend as CU hosts the annual Omni Classic at the Coors Events Center.

Florida and Ball State tip things off at 5 p.m. Friday, with the Buffaloes hitting the floor at 7:30 p.m. to take on UMass. The winners will play for the tournament title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday immediately following the consolation game, which begins at 5 p.m.

"In the middle of elbows apparently is my thing," Beard-Fails said. "I do crash hard and I just go straight in there. Sometimes I tend to miss the flying elbows. I don't plan to let that stop me. They're minor setbacks and I just keep going."

Beard-Fails appeared in 31 games last season, making seven starts, and finished her sophomore season averaging 3.5 points and 2.7 rebounds while compiling a shooting percentage of .381.

Through the first three games this season (and aside from the occasional facial wound) it has been a completely different story for the native of Virginia. Beard-Fails has scored 12 points in each of the past two games after scoring nine in the opener, all while averaging 6.3 rebounds. Beard-Fails also is shooting at a torrid .750 clip (12-for-16) from the floor.

The infusion of offense from Beard-Fails has been a pleasant early surprise for coach Linda Lappe's club. Yet Beard-Fails insists the offensive surge merely is a result of her increased focus on defense and rebounding.

"This year, there's been a definite focus for me to do my part, and coach Lappe and I talked a lot about that being rebounding, playing defense, and really connecting with my strengths," Beard-Fails said. "Which for me, strength is one of those. I have to use that, especially against bigger people. It's just been a big effort and focus on defense and rebounding that has helped my offense come together."

The Buffs will look to shake off a lopsided loss at No. 13 Kentucky on Sunday in which the Buffs allowed the game get out of reach in a hurry. After opening the season by picking up a pair of wins in wildly varied manners — the Buffs scored 92 points in the opener against Loyola Marymount before putting the clamps down defensively against Northern Colorado — Lappe has been imploring her troops to rekindle the effort-first approach that was such a huge focus of the preseason.

"We didn't play hard (at Kentucky) and we don't have much if we don't play hard," Lappe said. "We let them score about 22 points on 50-50 basketballs, basketballs that could have gone either way that we didn't track down. And we lose by 25.

"We want to get back to running the floor hard on offense, running our offense at a good pace, and then working hard and playing together on defense."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07