CU women's basketball preview: Presbyterian
MATCHUP: Presbyterian Blue Hose (4-5) at Colorado Buffaloes (4-5).
GAME TIME: Saturday, 3:30 p.m., at Coors Events Center.
BROADCAST: Radio -- KKZN (760 AM).
COACHES: Colorado - Linda Lappe, sixth year (102-74; 152-110 career); Presbyterian - Ronny Fisher, eighth year (79-131).
LEADERS: Colorado - Scoring: F Jamee Swan, Sr., 13.3 ppg; Rebounding: Swan, 7.0 rpg; Assists: G Kennedy Leonard, Fr., 5.2 apg. Presbyterian - Scoring: G Taylor Petty, Fr., 12.3 ppg; Rebounding: G Aianna Kelly, Fr., 5.4 rpg; Assists: G Cortney Story, So., 3.8 apg.
NOTABLE: CU has lost four of its last five. ... The Buffs are 4-2 at home this season. ... Presbyterian is 1-4 on the road. ... This is the first meeting between the teams. It will also be CU's first-ever matchup with a team from the Big South Conference.
Colorado women's basketball coach Linda Lappe never really knew what she was going to get from Zoe Beard-Fails the previous two years.
Now, early in her junior season, Beard-Fails is starting to earn some trust.
"We've seen spurts of greatness in years past," Lappe said. "You want to know what you're going to see on game day and that's built in practice. She's been able to come to practice (this season) and build that consistency.
"I know now what Beard is going to give us."
A 6-foot-1 forward, Beard-Fails is playing a significant role for the Buffs (4-5) for the first time in her career. Averaging 17.7 minutes, mostly as a reserve, she's posting 8.0 points and 4.0 rebounds per game. Her field goal percentage (56.7 percent) leads the team, and she's hitting free throws at a 73.7 percent clip (14 of 19).
"Everyone wants to contribute to the team and help in any way they can," Beard-Fails said. "I do enjoying getting to play more and help my teammates out in any way I can. It makes playing more fun. It gives you more energy out there so you don't get tired. You're focused on helping your team out."
Beard-Fails has always been a team-first player, but has seen a slow, steady progression to getting on the court.
As a freshman, she played in 27 games but averaged just 6.9 minutes. Last year, she played an average of 11.7 minutes per game.
This season, she's not only getting more playing time, but being more productive in her time on the court.
"I think for everyone, coming into college is a big shift," said Beard-Fails, who grew up in Virginia. "In those first two years, I learned a lot about myself as a player, about the game of basketball. Obviously, I wanted to be in the game and do what I can, but looking back on it now, I don't think I'd be where I am if I hadn't gone through the first two years, if I didn't understand how to make changes and how to learn things about my teammates."
During her first two seasons, Beard-Fails worked hard to get her body in shape. She also learned about CU's offense and defense and how she could best help the Buffs.
Now, she and the Buffs are benefiting from her growth.
"I think sometimes that's the value of not playing a ton your first two years, that when you have the opportunity to play, you really thrive in that role because it hasn't always been given to you," Lappe said. "She's had to really work for that. Any time you've had to work for something, you don't want to let that go. You've seen that with her; she's really thriving with the opportunity she's had this year."
Perhaps the most upbeat and positive person on the squad, Beard-Fails is hoping to continue that, but mainly because she's realizing the influence she can have on her team.
"If I were to be negative ... it's not helping anyone," she said. "I think staying positive, it helps bring my teammates up. I think it just brings everyone up."
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.