CU women's basketball preview: Stanford
MATCHUP: No. 6 Stanford Cardinal (16-1, 6-0 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (10-7, 0-6)
GAME TIME: Friday, 7 p.m., at CU Events Center in Boulder
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks. Radio — KHOW 630 AM
COACHES: Colorado — JR Payne, 3rd season (42-39; 142-152 career). Stanford — Tara Vanderveer, 33rd season (900-192; 1,052-243 career)
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G Quinessa Caylao-Do, Jr., 11.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg; G/F Mya Hollingshed, So., 10.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg; G Kennedy Leonard, Sr., 14.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 7.2 apg, 3.1 spg; G Alexis Robinson, Sr., 10.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg; F Peanut Tuitele, Fr., 8.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg; G Lesila Finau, Fr., 1.6 ppg, 1.5 rpg. Stanford — G DiJonai Carrington, Jr., 13.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg; F Maya Dodson, So., 9.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg; F Lacie Hull, Fr., 5.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg; F Alanna Smith, Sr., 21.0 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.4 bpg; G Kiana Williams, So., 14.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.8 apg
NOTABLE: CU is looking to snap a six-game losing streak. ... CU is 4-18 all-time against Stanford, including 0-13 since joining the Pac-12. ... The Buffs have lost nine in a row against Top-10 teams, dating back to an upset of No. 8 Oregon State in the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament. ... Caylao-Do has averaged a team-best 15.5 points per game in conference play, while Robinson has averaged 13.8 points against the Pac-12. ... Leonard has missed three consecutive games. In her absence, the starting point guards have combined for 0 points and three assists. ... Stanford is off to its best start, overall and in conference play, since 2013-14. ... Smith is the only player in the country shooting 50-percent or better from the floor and form 3-point range. ... Since 2007-08, Stanford is 86-14 in conference road games.
During her third season as the head women's basketball coach at Southern Utah, in 2011-12, JR Payne's team lost three of its top players to season-ending knee injuries.
This year hasn't been quite as devastating for the Colorado women's basketball team, but Payne sees some similarities between the current Buffaloes and that SUU team of seven years ago.
"You went from a really good basketball team and a veteran team to really young and inexperienced, very similar to this," Payne said as the Buffs (10-7, 0-6 Pac-12) prepare to host sixth-ranked Stanford (16-1, 6-0) on Friday at CU Events Center.
CU has played the last three games without standout senior point guard Kennedy Leonard, who remains day to day with a foot sprain.
Also in recent games, the Buffs have seen freshman Peanut Tuitele deal with a hand injury and other ailments, while freshman Emma Clarke has battled a foot injury.
Junior Mathilde Diop also missed three games because of illness earlier in conference play, and the Buffs have played the second half of the year without freshman Cameron Swartz, who left the team during the holiday break and transferred to Boston College.
Payne has preached the same message to this team as she did to that SUU team of several years ago.
"We focus on the details of what can we do to be better every day," Payne said. "(At SUU), we continued to get better and a couple years later, we were really, really good.
"The trial by fire and the fortitude that was grown and forged during that season, we very much felt like was a huge catalyst in our ability to win a conference championship two years later. They just had to figure it out together as a group."
That's not to say that Payne and her coaches are throwing in the towel for this year and eyeing the future. While the upcoming schedule isn't easy, the Buffs still have 12 conference games to play.
"It's not about looking to the future," Payne said. "It's about continuing to get better every day. That gives us a chance to be successful on a daily basis, and it also gives us a chance to be a really good ball club down the road. It's present and future all at once."
In the present, the Buffs aren't sure if they'll have Leonard on the court against Stanford. However, having Leonard out is helping others step up.
"We're learning that we're all capable of doing a little bit more," Payne said. "There are times that certain people have stepped up in practice."
Nobody has stepped up more than junior guard Quinessa Caylao-Do. Already enjoying the best season of her career before Leonard's injury, she has elevated her game even more in recent games.
Caylao-Do has become a consistent scorer and key defender. She also played point guard for much of the game in Sunday's loss to Utah. On top of all that, the coaches have asked her to be more of a vocal leader that holds the rest of the team accountable on the court.
"We're asking a lot of her right now," Payne said. "Q has risen to that challenge in a lot of ways. The great thing is she put in the work between last spring and this fall to be prepared for this challenge."
Senior Alexis Robinson delivered perhaps her best game of the season against Utah and has carried an aggressive mindset through practice this week.
As a team, the Buffs haven't been winning, but much like that SUU team seven years ago — a group that finished 10th in the Summit League — they also haven't folded.
"We stay together, we're all on the same page, we're on the same team and competing in practice daily," Payne said. "I'm really proud of this group for doing that. I wouldn't be as optimistic about where we are if, over these last handful of Pac-12 games, we had not been competitive.
"We just need to do the very best we can at everything we're doing and pay attention to details and focus on possession by possession and give ourselves a chance to be successful."