Kyle Ringo
Kyle Ringo
It wasn't all that long ago you didn't know what you were going to get from the Colorado women's basketball team from one game to the next.

The opposite is true these days.

You can pretty much count on the Buffs executing offensively and playing together on the defensive end. They come ready to play. They do so with energy and passion and bad practices, poor halves and subpar games aren't just shrugged off with a come-what-may attitude.

The way a team approaches the game has a lot to do with the results its produces, and the Buffs have definitely re-established a high standard in how they go about their business. The results speak for themselves.

After beating Washington State at the Coors Events Center on Friday night, coach Linda Lappe's team improved to 20-0 against unranked opponents this season. Viewed another way, the 20th-ranked Buffs are perfect against the teams they are supposed to beat.

Lappe and her team received a standing ovation for that standard of consistency as the final 15 seconds ticked away in their 59-45 victory over the Cougars. It was somewhat surprising because Friday's game was not a thing of beauty.

Lappe described it perfectly in her postgame remarks when she noted there was no rhythm to the contest. The teams combined for 44 turnovers. CU made only 34 percent of its shots and Washington State made just 20 percent.

None of the 3,170 in attendance could be blamed for wishing they had opted for a movie or game night at home on a cold February night. To be honest, it was hard to watch.


But the Buffs also were never seriously in jeopardy of losing. That restlessness that sometimes infects a crowd when a favorite is struggling with an underdog never materialized, and it's because these Buffs play with a confidence they havegained from being held to standards and achieving success.

The victory sets up a huge game against Washington on Sunday in which the winner will likely earn the fourth seed and a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament next month.

CU forward Jen Reese said no one in the home team's locker room was happy at halftime Friday. The Buffs led 26-19 after shooting just 28 percent in the half and not making a 3-pointer. Reese said Lappe didn't have to say anything to the Buffs because everyone knew the first half wasn't near good enough.

That maturity is a big component of the Buffs' beating all 20 unranked teams on their schedule so far and it will eventually help them get over the hump against ranked teams as well. The Buffs are just 1-5 against fellow members of the top 25 this season with the only win coming back in December over then-No. 8 Louisville (now No. 11).

"I think just believing that we belong in that category is first and foremost the No. 1 thing," Lappe said. "We believed we were going to beat Louisville. You could see it in our demeanor and how we approached it.

"So just having that mentality every single game, understanding that, 'Hey, we should win this game.' Even if somebody might be ranked a little bit higher."

It has to be satisfying for Lappe to have reached this level in developing her program. At the same time it has to be motivating that there is still so far to go in the journey. There remains a clear difference, a dividing line of sorts, between the best women's programs in the nation and the rest of the top 25 and then the rest of the pack.

CU is in the middle group now and life can be good here. Coaches and players can't get used to winning the games they're supposed to and only occasionally winning the ones they're not. The next step for CU is finding ways to win more of the games it's not supposed to.

The Buffs are going to have more than a few chances to take that step in the next month when tournament time comes. Lappe and her Buffs can't get comfortable.

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