CU women's basketball preview: Mississippi Valley State
MATCHUP: No. 15 Colorado Buffaloes (9-0) at Mississippi Valley State (3-5)
GAME TIME: Today, 2 p.m. MST, R.W. Harrison HPER Complex in Itta Bena, Miss.
BROADCAST: Radio — ESPN 1600 AM; TV — None.
COACHES: Mississippi Valley State — Jessica Kern, 1st season (3-5 at Mississippi Valley State); Colorado — JR Payne, 1st season (9-0 at CU; 110-113 overall).
LEADERS: Mississippi Valley State — Scoring: G Christina Reed, Sr. 16.3 ppg; Rebounding: F Ashley Beals, Sr., 6.8 rpg; Assists: PG Lauren Elliot, Jr., 2.0 apg. Colorado — Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, So., 17.9 ppg; Rebounding: F Monica Burich, Fr., 6.1 rpg; Assists: Leonard, 6.4 apg.
NOTABLE: This is the first meeting between these teams. ... CU is seeking just the fifth 10-0 start in program history. ... The Buffs are averaging 83.6 points per game, while the Devils average 59.4 points per game. ... CU has been out-rebounding the opposition by an average of 5.6 boards per game; MVSU has been out-rebounded by an average of 10.1 rebounds. ... The Buffs are seeking their third consecutive road victory.
In sitting out last season as a transfer, Ariana Freeman had hopes that when her time came, she could be a significant contributor for the Colorado women's basketball team.
Nine games into her CU career, she is doing just that.
The sophomore, who transferred from Louisville, has been one of the top offensive threats for the surging Buffs (9-0), who have vaulted to No. 15 in the Associated Press poll after going 7-23 a season ago.
"I think I'm exceeding my expectations," said Freeman, who is averaging 11.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game as the Buffs' top reserve. "I thought I was going to come back and be a little rusty, be a little scared and not really have a feel for the game like I do, so I think I've been doing well."
How long she'll be able to keep this up remains to be seen, however.
Freeman, a 5-foot-9 guard, has severe patellar tendonitis in both knees and a minor tear on her right patellar tendon. She's been playing through pain to this point in the season.
"It's very painful," she said. "It's really playing with pain and just trying to push through it. It's all tolerance."
Freeman has been taking pain medication before each practice and game, going through rehab and playing in moderation. The upcoming holiday break should help her get some rest, but if needed, she may get injections, which would force her to sit out for four to five weeks.
"It would help me in the long run," she said.
Surgery - and missing the rest of the season - is a last resort.
"It would break my heart if I wasn't able to play after having to sit out last year and my knees getting in the way of me being able to play and help my team," she said.
For now, Freeman is dealing with the pain and giving CU exactly what it needs, in terms of leadership and aggressive scoring off the bench.
"She gets to the basket better than anybody (on the team)," head coach JR Payne said. "She loves that. She enjoys the physicality of the game."
Freeman is one of the top scorers for the Buffs - her .472 field goal percentage leads all CU guards and her 25 free throw attempts ranks second on the team - and said she enjoys being that "sneak attack" off the bench.
Having Freeman provide scoring punch off the bench has helped the Buffs to sustain their success to this point.
"If you put your best five scorers in the game in the beginning, there's not enough shots to go around," Payne said. "You're going to be fighting over shots or they may not move the ball as well as they would when you have a couple of role players or secondary scorers."
Whatever role she's in, Freeman is just glad to be on the court and helping her team.
"It's great," she said. "Sitting out last year was really rough for me, but luckily time flew by and I got to sit back and watch the game a little bit. I'm excited to be playing this year."