Senior point guard Chucky Jeffery is, without question, the best player on the Colorado women's basketball team.

As good as Jeffery has been, however, the key to the success of the 21st-ranked Buffaloes (20-5, 9-5 Pac-12) just might be the front-court foursome of Rachel Hargis, Jen Reese, Arielle Roberson and Jamee Swan.

"If we don't get anything from those four, not just offensively but defensively, we're not a very good basketball team," said CU assistant Jonas Chatterton, who coaches the front court players. "Those four need to come ready to play every night."


Lately, they have been.

Sunday's 71-63 win at Arizona State was arguably the best game that group has played together all season. In that game, the 6-foot-2 Reese scored a career-high 22 points, the 6-1 Roberson scored 16 and Swan, a 6-2 freshman, scored nine points off the bench. Meanwhile, the 6-4 Hargis was her usual nasty self on defense, with a pair of steals, seven rebounds and throwing in five points.

Seeing that group play well together is starting to become normal. Most, if not all, of them have played well in each of CU's last five games -- all victories. They'll need to continue their strong play when the Buffs host Washington State (10-15, 6-8) on Friday.

"We were doing that at the beginning of the season and we knew we wanted to get back to that," Hargis said. "We stepped up to the challenge."

Hargis is the defensive force of the group. She averages just 4.8 points, but is the only Buff to start all 25 games this season. That's because she leads the team with 27 blocked shots (and countless re-directed shots) and flexes her muscles against the top centers and forwards around the Pac-12.

"Rachel is a huge part of what we do as a team," Chatterton said. "That's why she is starting. Defensively at times, she's a clinic. I mean, she's really good. She runs our whole defense. Rachel brings, for our whole team, toughness. If she doesn't bring it, we're not that good."

Hargis' toughness stems from the fact that she understands CU's defense-first philosophy.

"I definitely try to bring my toughness every game and start off with that," she said. "When (the rest of the Buffs) see that, they become more aggressive. When everybody gets that mentality, it really just helps the defense pick up."

Reese said Hargis' toughness has helped her, Roberson and Swan get tougher, too. But, the Buffs aren't just tough on defense. One of the keys to their resurgence in recent games is their scoring punch on offense.

"We're being more aggressive in wanting the ball and calling for it," Reese said.

At least one of the four has scored in double figures in each of the last five games. During the recent five-game stretch, the front-court foursome has averaged 32.2 points per game. In the nine games before that, they averaged 22.3.

"Experience has a lot to do with that," Reese said.

The group is young -- Hargis is a junior, Reese a sophomore and Roberson and Swan are freshmen -- but they have been getting big minutes all season.

It also helped the group to go through the mid-season gauntlet of facing No. 4 Stanford twice, No. 6 California twice and No. 17 UCLA once. The group sometimes struggled through that stretch of games, but they got better through it.

"I think we played some tougher competition and we just kind of got out of the flow of what we've been doing," Hargis said of the mid-season struggles of the front court. "Now we know that even when we do play tougher competition or different defenses, we still need to be looking inside no matter what."

With a tougher mentality and increased level of confidence, the front court players could be the key to the Buffs' success as they head to the postseason in a couple of weeks.

"They've really been a good base and foundation for our team this year," Chatterton said. "It's absolutely critical (they play well)."


Sophomore guard Lexy Kresl, who separated her shoulder Sunday, remains day-to-day. Head coach Linda Lappe said Kresl has improved every day and she won't rule out Kresl playing Friday vs. WSU or Sunday against Washington. ... Senior captain Meagan Malcolm-Peck, who has missed the past five games with a shoulder injury, practiced at full strength this week and is ready to play again. ... On Sunday, CU is celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day. There will be a free fitness and skills clinic for kids ages 13 and under from noon-1 p.m. at the Coors Events Center. Anyone who participates in the clinic, and adults who brings kids to the clinic, get free admission to the Buffs' game against Washington, which starts at 2 p.m.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.

CU women's hoops preview

FRIDAY: The No. 20 Colorado Buffaloes (20-5, 9-5 Pac-12) host the Washington State Cougars (10-15, 6-8) in a 7 p.m. game at Coors Events Center in Boulder.

BROADCAST: Radio -- KKZN (760 AM), with Mike Rice on play-by-play and Carol Callan providing color commentary. Online --

STORYLINES: CU has won five in a row, its longest conference winning streak in nine years. ... Washington State is 5-2 in its last seven games, but lost to last-place Oregon on Sunday. ... The Buffs are 19-0 this season against unranked teams. ... Washington State is 1-3 against ranked teams, beating No. 20 Ohio State on Dec. 15. Ohio State has not been ranked since. ... CU is 13-2 at home, while Washington State is 4-10 away from home. ... In Pac-12 games, CU has out-rebounded opponents by an average of 5.4 rebounds per game (third in the conference). Washington State has been out-rebounded by 2.4 per game (eighth). ... During Pac-12 play, the Cougars lead the conference in steals (10.4 per game) and rank third in blocked shots (3.8 per game). Lia Galdeira leads the conference individually in steals, at 2.9 per game. ... Although the Cougars get a lot of steals, they are just 2-7 when they get at least 10. ... During her last four games, the Buffs' Jen Reese has averaged 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. ... CU's Chucky Jeffery has averaged 14.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game during the Pac-12 portion of the schedule.

KEY STAT: Colorado is 24-4 when Jeffery posts a double-double, including 8-0 this season. Jeffery has had four doubles-doubles in the last five games. She came within one rebound of a double-double against the Cougars last year. Eight WSU opponents have posted double-doubles in Pac-12 play.

COACHES: Linda Lappe is 59-35 in her third season at CU and 109-71 overall. June Daugherty is 55-124 in her sixth season at Washington State and 369-337 during her career.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- G Chucky Jeffery, 5-10, Sr. (13.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.4 spg); G Brittany Wilson, 5-7, Jr. (8.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Lexy Kresl, 5-11, So. (6.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg); F Arielle Roberson, 6-1, Fr. (12.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg); C Rachel Hargis, 6-4, Jr. (4.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg). Washington State --G Dawnyelle Awa, 5-9, Fr. (1.8 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.5 apg); G Katie Grad, 5-9, Sr. (2.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G Lia Galdeira, 5-11, Fr. (15.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.9 spg); F Sage Romberg, 6-1, Jr. (6.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.2 apg); C Carly Noyes, 6-5, Sr. (6.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg).

SERIES: CU leads 2-1, including 1-0 in Boulder. The Buffs won the only meeting between the teams last year, 57-56, in Pullman, Wash.

UP NEXT: CU will host Washington on Sunday at 2 p.m.