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CU women’s basketball: Lappe’s Buffs savoring shot at Wildcats

Colorado senior Jamee Swan and the other Buffs players are embracing the opportunity to play No. 13 Kentucky on the road Sunday.
David R. Jennings / Staff Photographer
Colorado senior Jamee Swan and the other Buffs players are embracing the opportunity to play No. 13 Kentucky on the road Sunday.

CU women’s basketball preview: No. 13 Kentucky

MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (2-0) at No. 13 Kentucky Wildcats (3-0).

GAME TIME: Sunday, 12 p.m. MST, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky.

BROADCAST: Radio – 1190 AM.

COACHES: Colorado – Linda Lappe, sixth year (100-69; 150-105 career); Kentucky – Matthew Mitchell, ninth year (197-81; 227-110 career).

LEADERS: Colorado – Scoring: F Jamee Swan, Sr., 13.5 ppg; Rebounding – Swan and F Zoe Beard-Fails, 7.0 rpg; Assists – G Kennedy Leonard, 6.0 apg. Kentucky – Scoring: G Makayla Epps, Jr., 20.5 ppg; Rebounding – F Evelyn Akhator, Jr., 14.3 rpg; Assists – G Janee Thompson, Sr., 6.3 apg.

NOTABLE: This is the first meeting between the teams. … CU won its last game against a ranked team, upsetting No. 8 Oregon State during the Pac-12 tournament in March. Prior to that, the Buffs had lost 17 in a row against ranked teams. … CU is 50-9 in regular season nonconference games under Lappe. … Epps recorded a triple-double in Kentucky’s last game.

Linda Lappe downplayed her 100th win as the Colorado women’s basketball coach on Thursday night.

She might boast if the Buffaloes can get her 101 in Lexington, Ky., on Sunday afternoon.

The young Buffs face their first big test of the new season when they face No. 13 Kentucky on the Wildcats’ home court (noon, MST). While it’s still only November, a signature win against a ranked team could mean a lot when March rolls around.

“It was a little bit strategic in putting this game early,” Lappe said after CU’s dominant 63-41 win over Northern Colorado on Thursday night. “Ultimately, nonconference is to prepare you for conference and this game will prepare us for the rest of our nonconference. We have tough games in nonconference, too, but it will help as we get into conference.”

The Buffs (2-0) had relatively easy wins in their first two games, but with mixed results. The offense was clicking in the 92-81 season-opening win over Loyola Marymount while the defense struggled. Conversely, the defense cranked it up against the Bears but the offense sputtered in stretches.

Putting it all together is vital against Kentucky. It won’t be easy. The Wildcats (3-0), unlike UNC, have big starting post players (6-foot-2 Alexis Jennings and 6-3 Evelyn Akhator) and two more coming off the bench (6-6 Ivana Jakubcova and 6-2 Batouly Camara). All four will present headaches for CU’s frontcourt.

“They’re big inside,” Lappe said. “It’ll be nice to play against actual true post players. It’ll be more Pac-12 like than what we’ve faced so far.”

The players aren’t timid heading into a hostile environment. In fact, they’re embracing it.

“We look at it as another game,” senior forward Jamee Swan said. “Wake up, everybody puts their shorts on the same way; everybody puts their shirt on the same way — one arm at a time. They’re basketball players and we’re basketball players. The names, we’re not worried about that. We’re worried about what we need to do. We’re ready to go in and just play Colorado basketball.”

There should be some support for CU. Freshman Alexis Robinson is from Ashland, Ky., and there promises to be a few fans cheering for the Buffs.

“We’re super excited to have that big-time feel and lots of fans,” junior Haley Smith said. “We have lots of people coming out. (Robinson) is going to have some family out there so we’re really excite about that. Everybody’s just pumped for that atmosphere, to have all that energy in the stadium, no matter who it’s for, is awesome.”