CU women's basketball preview: Missouri
MATCHUP: Missouri Tigers (9-0) at Colorado Buffaloes (4-4).
GAME TIME: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., at Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Radio -- KKZN (760 AM). TV - Pac-12 Network.
COACHES: Colorado - Linda Lappe, sixth year (102-73; 152-109 career); Missouri - Robin Pingeton, sixth year (88-79; 423-236 career).
LEADERS: Colorado - Scoring: F Jamee Swan, Sr., 12.9 ppg; Rebounding: Swan, 6.9 rpg; Assists: G Kennedy Leonard, Fr., 5.3 apg. Missouri - Scoring: G Sophie Cunningham, Fr., 16.0 ppg; Rebounding: F Jordan Frericks, Jr., 7.8 rpg; Assists: G Lindsay Cunningham, Jr., and Sophie Cunningham, 3.4 apg.
NOTABLE: CU snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Northern Arizona, 90-66 on Wednesday. ... The Buffs are 42-28 all-time against the Tigers, their former Big 12 Conference rivals. Last year, the Buffs lost at Missouri, 53-50. ... Missouri is 9-0 for just the second time in school history(also 1982-83). ... Sophie Cunningham has already been named SEC freshman of the week three times. ... In addition to Sophie Cunningham, Frericks (12.1) and Sierra Michaelis (10.4) are scoring in double figures for the Tigers, while Cierra Porter is averaging 9.9 points per game.
Prior to Wednesday's game against Northern Arizona, Colorado women's basketball coach Linda Lappe said the Buffaloes were lacking leadership on the floor.
Riding a three-game losing streak at the time, the Buffs (4-4) needed somebody - anybody - to step up.
The team's only senior, Jamee Swan, did her part during the Buffs' 90-66 win against UNA, and so did juniors Haley Smith and Lauren Huggins. That trio combined for 44 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and only two turnovers in 62 minutes on the floor.
Perhaps the most important player to step up that night, however, was sophomore point guard Brecca Thomas.
"Her pace was very good," Lappe said. "She had a great confidence level, and just her presence in how she took the floor."
As the most experienced point guard on the roster, Thomas had hoped to win the starting job this offseason, but was beaten out by true freshman Kennedy Leonard.
On Wednesday, Lappe gave Thomas a chance to start, and she proved to be the catalyst to the victory. Thomas had a career-high 12 points, tied her career high with five assists and committed just one turnover in 26 minutes.
Afterward, the 5-foot-5 guard was given an opportunity to talk about how well she had played.
"I thought we all did real well as a team," she said.
She was pressed a little more to talk about her individual effort and scoring a career-high point total.
"It was fun to score and it was fun to watch teammates score," she said. "It was fun to just be together out there."
The maturity Thomas showed during the press conference matched the maturity she showed on the floor Wednesday night.
On Saturday, the Buffs will host Missouri (9-0) and may need a repeat performance from Thomas.
Leonard probably has the biggest upside among CU point guards, but Thomas proved she can be a player the Buffs can rely on in tough situations.
On Wednesday, the Buffs weren't very good on offense at the start but wound up having a great night offensively. Thomas kick-started that.
"I think (the key) was just really staying connected with each other and keeping each other encouraged to keep shooting," Thomas said. "Keep moving the ball and eventually our offense is going to work and find its way. It also starts on the defensive end."
Lappe has often said the Buffs have three good point guards (Leonard, Thomas and freshman Alexis Robinson), so she was not surprised to see Thomas play as she did, but she was pleased about it.
"She's one of the hardest workers on the team," Lappe said. "She gets in extra reps all the time, she works with coach Jamie (Carey) a lot outside of practice."
That hard work paid off on Wednesday. The Buffs won't need Thomas to be that good every night, but seeing it in action was big for a team that needed it.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.