CU women's hoops preview: Northern Arizona
MATCHUP: Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (3-4) at Colorado Buffaloes (3-4)
GAME TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m., at Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Radio — 760 AM.
COACHES: Colorado — Linda Lappe, sixth year (101-73; 151-109 career); Northern Arizona — Sue Darling, fourth year (33-62).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: F Jamee Swan, Sr., 12.7 ppg; Rebounding: Swan, 7.3 rpg; Assists: G Kennedy Leonard, Fr., 5.4 apg. UNA — Scoring: C Alyssa Rader, Fr., 12.7 ppg; Rebounding: Rader, 9.7 rpg; Assists: G Brittani Lusain, Jr., 3.6 apg.
NOTABLE: CU has lost three consecutive non-conference games for the first time in seven years. ... Leonard is barely behind Swan in scoring, at 12.6 points per game. ...UNA has four players from Colorado on its roster, including Rader, who is a graduate of Horizon High School. CU has just one Colorado player: junior Lauren Huggins. ... CU is 14-2 all-time against Northern Arizona, which all but two of those matchups before 1994. The Lumberjacks are 0-8 in Boulder.
When it comes to giving everything she's got and doing what she's asked, Haley Smith has been the perfect leader for the Colorado women's basketball team.
Right now, the Buffaloes need her to be something more.
"We're lacking leadership on the floor and that's the biggest thing I see," CU head coach Linda Lappe said. "When things start to get a little tough for us, we don't respond in the right way. That's the biggest thing we have to shore up.
"We need Haley Smith to step up. She's so consistent and she's a Steady Eddie sort of kid. The problem with Haley is she doesn't talk a whole lot, so we've got to get her to become a little bit more of a vocal leader."
CU (3-4) takes a three-game losing streak into Wednesday's matchup with Northern Arizona (3-4) and it knows this is a pivotal game to stop the bleeding.
"We've been feeling (some pressure) a little bit," said Smith, a 6-foot-1 junior wing. "It's going to be a really important game for us."
With Missouri (9-0 and 29th among teams receiving Top 25 votes) coming to town on Saturday, the Buffs can't afford another lackluster performance against UNA.
"Tomorrow we need to play well," Lappe said. "We need to play well, we need to play hard, we need to get on the floor, we need to defend, we need to communicate with each other, we need to play together."
To do all of that, Lappe said the Buffs need somebody to step up and rally the troops, especially when things aren't going well. Smith agrees, saying the players have to find a way to kill negative momentum on the fly.
"Being able to feel when the game is taking a not so good turn and being able to turn that around, without having to do a timeout," she said.
That's where Smith is needed. Averaging 28.1 minutes per game, she's often on the floor during critical moments, and she agrees with Lappe that her voice needs to be heard.
"It's something I've been working on a lot this year ... more vocal leadership, as opposed to leading by example," she said. "That's something that I think will be really important for me."
She's not alone. A pair of true freshmen — Kennedy Leonard and Alexis Robinson — also rank among the top four in minutes played, as does junior Lauren Huggins. Senior Jamee Swan is also a key component in leadership.
Regardless of who provides the leadership, though, the Buffs are feeling a sense of urgency to break their losing skid.
"The biggest thing for us right now is the mindset," Lappe said. "We're good enough. It's just making sure we have the confidence and the right mindset going into games."