CU women's basketball preview: USC
MATCHUP: Southern California Trojans (11-4, 1-3 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (11-4, 2-2 Pac-12)
GAME TIME: Friday, 6 p.m., MT at Coors Events Center in Boulder
BROADCAST: TV - Pac-12 Network. Radio - KVCU 1190 AM
COACHES: Colorado - JR Payne, 2nd season (28-20 at CU; 129-133 career). USC - Mark Trakh, 1st season in second stint at USC (90-64 at USC; 393-267 career).
LEADERS: Colorado - Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, Jr., 14.9 ppg; Rebounding - F Annika Jank, Fr., 8.0 rpg; Assists - Leonard, Jr., 6.7 apg. USC - Scoring: F Kristen Simon, Sr., 17.9 ppg; Rebounds: Simon, 8.3 rpg; Assists: G Minyon Moore, So., 5.3 apg.
NOTABLE: USC leads the all-time series 9-6, including 4-3 in Boulder. ... The teams split last year's series, with the home team winning both times. ... Turnovers could be a key in this one. CU, on average, is minus-0.5 on turnover margin, while USC is plus-5.1. ... The Trojans have four starters averaging at least 14.5 points per game, but don't have a lot of depth. They've played just nine players this year, and the four players off the bench average just 3.6 points per game. ... CU, meanwhile, has relied on its depth, with 11 players posting at least 3.6 points per game. ... Trakh, who spent the previous six seasons at New Mexico State, previously coached USC for five seasons from 2004-09. ...
In all the years that Colorado women's basketball coach JR Payne has been involved in the sport, she can't recall an athlete coming back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and playing as if nothing happened.
Until Alexis Robinson, that is.
A junior guard from Ashland, Ky., Robinson has been a crucial piece to the puzzle for the Buffaloes (11-4, 2-2 Pac-12), who host Southern California on Friday night at Coors Events Center.
"She looks 100 percent normal," Payne said. "She did a great job of really preparing to get better and be back on the court."
Robinson tore the ACL in her left knee March 18. By October, she was ready to roll.
"My sister had recently torn hers, so I just saw how her comeback was, and I based my process off of hers," Robinson said. "It was tough at times, but it wasn't too bad."
Robinson, who got off to a sizzling start to the season, is averaging 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. In the past three games, she has posted 17.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game, helping the Buffs go 2-1 in that stretch.
Robinson tied her career high with 22 points in Sunday's win at Washington and has scored in double figures in three straight games. The only other time she's done that was the first three games of the 2016-17 season.
"It's been good," she said. "I'm just trying to do what I can and get as many wins as possible. I definitely think it's important for me to do what I can to get a win, whether that's scoring, rebounding or whatever it is."
Robinson's strength has always been scoring, but after back-to-back 16-point games to open the season, she struggled with consistency in her shot. In recent games, however, she's been hitting, including 9-for-19 (47.3 percent) from 3-point range.
"It's felt good, just being able to shoot my shot and see my shots going in a lot more," she said. "That definitely feels good."
In addition to hitting from the perimeter, Robinson is rebounding and getting steals, and she's attempted more free throws in the past three games (13) than in previous 12 games combined (11).
"She's playing well and being more aggressive than she had been, so that's definitely a positive for her and for us," Payne said. "For a year and a half we've been asking her to be aggressive and she's such a great shooter that I think that's sort of her comfort zone. Perhaps she's recognizing that this team really needs that (aggressiveness) from her, so she's willing to do it."
More than anything, Robinson is trying to do her part to help the Buffs win. After helping them reach the Women's NIT last year, Robinson would like to get the Buffs — who feature eight new players — back to the postseason.
"I think we're all just trying to find our role and that's what I'm trying to do as well," she said.