CU women's hoops preview
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (6-17, 1-11 Pac-12) at No. 8 Oregon State (20-3, 11-1)
GAME TIME: Friday, 8:30 p.m. MST, at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore.
BROADCAST: Radio — KKZN (760 AM). TV — Pac-12 Networks.
COACHES: Colorado — Linda Lappe, sixth year (104-85; 154-121 career); Oregon State — Scott Rueck, fifth year (110-74; 398-162 career).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: F Jamee Swan, Sr., 13.5 ppg; Rebounding: Swan, 7.1 rpg; Assists: G Kennedy Leonard, Fr., 4.6 apg. Oregon State — Scoring: G Jamie Weisner, Sr., 17.0 ppg; Rebounding: C Ruth Hamblin, Sr., 8.3 rpg; Assists - G Sydney Wiese, Jr., 4.6 apg.
NOTABLE: The Buffs are looking to snap a two-game skid after getting swept by Utah last week. ... CU lost to Oregon State, 61-47, in Boulder on Jan. 24. ... CU leads the all-time series with the Beavers, 6-4, including 1-2 in Corvallis. ... Oregon State has won 10 games in a row. ... The Beavers rank fourth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 50.0 points per game, and their field-goal percentage defense (30.9) is the best in the country.
When freshman forward Makenzie Ellis began her basketball career at the University of Colorado, she had a difficult time transitioning after coming off a knee injury. Now that the Buffaloes are nearing the end of their regular season, Ellis is contributing significant minutes as she's stepped into a bigger role coming off the bench.
In October of her senior year of high school, the Tulsa, Okla., native tore her ACL and spent the next six months recovering. She said she wasn't able to hit the court at full strength until August of last year, just a few months before the beginning of CU's season.
"I think part of it was hard physically," Ellis said. "It was hard especially in the summer, just trying to get back everything that I had lost. Mentally, I came really prepared and knew what I was in for. I knew it was going to be hard, especially, like, time management and just having to come back and work hard, because everyone's good at Division I."
At the beginning of her collegiate career, the 6-foot-2 Ellis struggled to contribute significant minutes without fouling substantially and she didn't produce much on offense and defense. Still, she averaged 15.5 minutes per game in nonconference play.
"I think sometimes my reaction timing was a little slower than before and I definitely had to work on being a step ahead because physically I wasn't up to where I used to be," Ellis said. "But again, like I said, mentally it was easy."
Ellis certainly caught the attention of head coach Linda Lappe, who understood the trials she faced on her road to recovery.
"I think anytime you have an injury it takes a little bit of time to get your confidence back, and even when you don't realize it, you think you're really confident, she's just now gaining her confidence back from being injured," Lappe said. "And it's great to see her transition, just the way that she attacks every practice and every game now."
Despite gaining confidence toward the end of the 2015 part of the schedule, Ellis saw her playing time steadily decline once the Buffaloes began conference play in early January.
During the first eight games of Pac-12 play, Ellis played roughly 10.6 minutes a game while averaging 2.6 points per game and 2.5 rebounds per game. In the past four games, she's seen those numbers elevate to 25 minutes per game, 5.5 points per game and four rebounds per game.
That increase in playing time, Lappe said, could be attributed to Ellis' body catching up with her mentality, adding that she's been a "huge factor" coming off the bench in recent games.
"She wasn't moving as well as she is now, and so she was behind probably a lot of plays where her mind wanted her to be there, but her body wasn't able to get to the right spot yet," Lappe said. "Now her mind knows where she needs to be and her body is able to get to the right spot. When you have good positioning, then you don't foul as much."
Heading into the stretch run of the season, which starts at Oregon State on Friday (8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network) Ellis outlined what she believes she can bring to the team in every game.
"I think most is just energy," Ellis said. "Coming in, getting extra possessions, and building the team up. I think right now we really need confidence throughout the season and I just want to come in and bring that energy and confidence, not only in me but in each other. I think that's a big part in where I can help."
Alissa Noe: firstname.lastname@example.org