CU women's basketball preview: Washington State

MATCHUP: No. 10 seed Colorado Buffaloes (15-14, 5-13 Pac-12) vs. No. 7 Washington State Cougars (11-18, 6-12)

GAME TIME: Thursday, 7 p.m. MT, at KeyArena in Seattle

BROADCAST: TV - Pac-12 Network. Radio - ESPN 1600 AM

COACHES: Colorado - JR Payne, 1st season (15-14 at CU; 116-127 career). Washington State - June Daugherty, 10th season (115-196 at WSU; 428-409 career).

LEADERS: Colorado - Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, So., 17.1 ppg; Rebounding: F Haley Smith, Sr., 6.5 rpg; Assists: Leonard, 5.7 apg. Washington State - Scoring: G Alexys Swedlund, So., 10.7 ppg; Rebounding: F Nike McClure, So., 6.1 rpg; Assists: G Pinelopi Pavlopoulou, Jr., 2.9 apg.

NOTABLE: This is the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. ... Since joining the conference, CU is 4-1 in its opening game of the tournament, with the only loss coming last year. ... Washington State is also 4-1 in its opening game of the tournament over the past five years, with the only loss coming last year. ... The No. 7 seed is 3-2 against the No. 10 in this event. WSU is 2-0 as the No. 7, while CU is 1-0 as the No. 10. ... CU and WSU split their two meetings this season, with the Buffs winning 70-58 in Boulder on Feb. 3 and losing 67-56 in Pullman on Saturday. ... Washington State leads the all-time series with CU, 7-5; this is the first postseason meeting between the teams. ... CU ranks 16th nationally - and first in the Pac-12 - with 11.


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3 steals per game. ... The winner will face No. 2-seeded Stanford (25-5) on Friday at 7 p.m. MT. ... On Wednesday, Leonard was named to the All-Pac-12 first team in a vote by media that covers the conference. She was named first-team All-Pac-12 in a vote by coaches on Tuesday.

Throughout this season, the Colorado women's basketball team has proven time and again that it can muster up the heart and energy to play with just about anyone.

Then last week, the Buffaloes went to Washington and forgot their principles.

Coach JR Payne's Buffs were routed by Washington and buried early against Washington State. Not exactly the way to build momentum for the postseason.

Yet, as the Buffs (15-14) head back to Seattle this week for the Pac-12 Tournament, Payne believes last week's flop could wind up being a spark for her team.

"You hate to play that poorly right before the tournament," Payne said, "but maybe you flush it and you kind of go back to basics and realize, 'When we play well, this is what it looks like.'"

Seeded 10th in the 12-team tournament, CU will open with a rematch against Washington State, the seventh seed. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT on Thursday at KeyArena.

Sophomore point guard Kennedy Leonard is pleased to get another crack at the Cougars just five days after the loss in Pullman, Wash.

"We got a good draw," Leonard said. "We didn't have a good game against Washington State on Saturday, so to come out again, I think it puts a little fire under our butts. We've been scouting them and working on the things we didn't do perfectly well in the game. Hopefully by the end of it we'll come out winners."

For this CU team, however, the opponent doesn't seem to matter. The key to the Buffs' success is the Buffs.

Relatively young, but talented, the Buffs' season has included a 10-0 start; a victory against then-No. 15 Kentucky on Nov. 19; a comeback victory against Washington State in Boulder on Feb. 3; and quality Pac-12 victories against California and Oregon.

CU has also played well, at times, in losses to Oregon State, Stanford and Washington — the top three seeds in the Pac-12 Tournament and three teams ranked in the top 11 nationally.

When the Buffs are at their best, they are aggressive on defense and creating turnovers, pushing the pace in transition and attacking on offense.

"It's all demeanor for us; it's not Xs and Os," Payne said. "We have to do us, but for us aggressive is the key."

If the Buffs do their thing this week in Seattle, Payne likes her team's chances against anyone in the conference.

"At least we've shown that we can play with anyone," Payne said. "We've also shown that we can really stink it up. So, it's important that we go into the tournament and even into the first game with the mindset of we have to take care of us."

By taking care of business, Leonard hopes this week's stay in Seattle is longer for the Buffs than the first-round exit they had a year ago.

"We only got one game last year, but I'm hoping we get a couple more this year because it's probably the coolest environment that I've played in," she said.

Pac-12 Women's basketball tournament

When: Thursday-Saturday

Where: KeyArena, Seattle

First round, Thursday

Game 1: No. 8 California vs. No. 9 USC, 12:30 p.m.

Game 2: No. 5 Arizona State vs. No. 12 Utah, 3 p.m.

Game 3: No. 7 Washington State vs. No. 10 Colorado, 7 p.m.

Game 4: No. 6 Oregon vs. No. 11 Arizona, 9:30 p.m.

Quarterfinals, Friday

Game 5: No. 1 Oregon State vs. Game 1 winner, 12:30 p.m.

Game 6: No. 4 UCLA vs. Game 2 winner, 3 p.m.

Game 7: No. 2 Stanford vs. Game 3 winner, 7 p.m.

Game 8: No. 3 Washington vs. Game 4 winner, 9:30 p.m.

Semifinals, Saturday

Game 9: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 7 p.m.

Game 10: Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 9:30 p.m.

Finals, Sunday

Game 11: Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.

(Note: All times MT; all games on Pac-12 Networks unless noted)

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.