Training a puppy takes a lot of work and probably even more patience.

Colorado senior Jamee Swan sees a lot of similarities in watching her young teammates get acclimated to college basketball.

"It's like molding a puppy," Swan said. "You give them the right skills, you teach them to sit, you teach them to roll, you do all of that — it's the same concept."

Some puppies take longer to train, however, and in concluding nonconference play, the CU women's basketball team is still dealing with some of the growing pains.

"I do like this team, so I know we're going to figure it out," Buffaloes' head coach Linda Lappe said. "I don't know when. You want it to be tomorrow."

The flip of the switch may not come as quickly as Lappe wants. But CU (5-6) is in the midst of a 12-day break before the start of Pac-12 Conference play on Jan. 2, and the Buffs believe that break has come at a good time.

"We come back and we have a couple practices before (the Jan. 2 conference opener against Washington) and we should be ready," Swan said.

Junior Haley Smith added that getting away from basketball for a few days for the holidays would be good for the Buffs.

"Regroup and think about things," Smith said. "Just thinking about what we're willing to do and finding that inner passion."

Smith and Swan both made their comments after a 77-68 loss at Wyoming on Monday. It was a game in which the Buffs were dreadful during the middle two quarters and afterward they received an angry postgame talk from Lappe.


"I have a feeling this is going to light a fire in a lot of people's corner and we're going to go," Swan said.

A renewed fire would help, but through the first 11 games it's clear this is a team that has a lot of work to do on the court, and not just between the ears.

CU has had a tough schedule to this point — ranks the Buffs' schedule as the 26th-toughest in the country — but it has struggled against the better teams on that slate.

As they go into Pac-12 play, the schedule only gets tougher.

Five Pac-12 teams are currently ranked among the top 22 in the Associated Press poll, and that doesn't include Southern California or Oregon, which are both unranked despite undefeated records.

CU is the only Pac-12 team with a losing record. Ranking near the bottom of the conference in field-goal percentage, field-goal percentage defense and rebounding margin has a lot to do with that.

What gives the Buffs hope, however, is those puppies.

Of the 10 active players on the roster, three are true freshmen and two are true sophomores. All five of those youngsters are in the regular rotation.

"We are a very young team," Swan said. "As much as we want to believe that that doesn't affect us and it isn't a factor in how we play, we're young and we're going to make mistakes and we're going to miss shots and we're going to run plays wrong. We're going to do that all that stuff. We're young."

Youth, however, is not necessarily a bad thing. Youth and inexperience might make winning difficult in the early going, but when the Buffs look at their roster, they love what they see.

"This is one of the most talented teams I've been a part of, as far as just pure basketball skill goes," Smith said. "People talk a lot about us being young, but I think that's one of our assets, and that's something that's going to be really awesome for us."

If that young talent is willing to learn, the future could be quite good for CU. In order for that to happen, however, the Buffs need their veterans - such as Swan, Smith and fourth-year junior Lauren Huggins - to train their puppies.

"They're great players," Smith said of the Buffs' youngsters. "They want to win and they're really passionate. So I think if they have someone to follow and they know exactly what's expected of them and what they need to do, I think they'll easily be able to follow that."

Whether there's time to lead this young team to victories this season remains to be seen. Yet even after watching her team crumble in the middle of the game in Laramie on Monday, Lappe came away believing the Buffs are on their way.

"Overall I see us playing better," she said. "We're executing better, we've gotten better defensively.

"(The holiday break) might be exactly what we need to finish flipping the switch. We've started it; we just have to finish it."

Brian Howell:, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.