CU women’s basketball: Jamee Swan battles back injury as Buffs take on ranked foes

Colorado senior Jamee Swan, right, leads the Buffs in scoring (15.4 points per game) and rebounding (7.8), but her status is uncertain because of a back injury.
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Colorado senior Jamee Swan, right, leads the Buffs in scoring (15.4 points per game) and rebounding (7.8), but her status is uncertain because of a back injury.

CU women’s basketball preview: No. 21 Cal

MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (5-8, 0-2 Pac-12) at No. 21 California Golden Bears (9-4, 0-2).

GAME TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. MST at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif..

BROADCAST: Radio — 1190 AM. TV – Pac-12 Network.

COACHES: Colorado – Linda Lappe, sixth year (103-77; 153-113 career); California – Lindsay Gottlieb, fifth year (112-38; 168-77 career).

LEADERS: Colorado – Scoring: F Jamee Swan, Sr., 15.4 ppg; Rebounding: Swan, 7.8 rpg; Assists: G Kennedy Leonard, Fr., 5.2 apg. California – Scoring: F Kristine Anigwe, Fr., 21.9 ppg; Rebounding: Anigwe, 9.5 rpg; Assists: G Gabby Green, So. 5.4.

NOTABLE: CU opened Pac-12 play by losing at home to Washington and Washington State. … Cal lost at Arizona State and Arizona last weekend. … While still ranked by the Associated Press, Cal dropped out of the Top 25 in the USA Today coaches poll this week. … Cal is 56-18 in Pac-12 games under Gottlieb, while CU is 31-53 with Lappe. … Anigwe has earned Pac-12 freshman of the week honors six times in eight weeks this season. … CU ranks seventh nationally in free-throw percentage (77.1), while Cal is 10th in field-goal percentage (48.2).

Colorado women’s basketball coach Linda Lappe isn’t sure – or isn’t willing to say – whether the Buffaloes will have standout Jamee Swan this weekend.

“She’s doing OK, day by day,” Lappe said of her senior forward, who injured her back late in Monday’s 74-66 loss to Washington State.

Swan leads the Buffs (5-8, 0-2 Pac-12) in both scoring (15.4 points per game) and rebounding (7.8). Playing without the 6-foot-2 forward could severely damage CU’s chances at upsetting No. 21 California and No. 9 Stanford on the road this week.

Regardless of whether Swan plays, though, Lappe said the mission is the same. The Buffs have to play better than they did in getting swept by the Washington schools last weekend.

“It’s about the process of getting better,” Lappe said. “Regardless of the outcomes, we want to make sure we’re continuing to progress as a team.”

To do that, the Buffs hope to correct the mistakes they made against Washington and Washington State.

“We watched a lot of film and we worked on things we saw that we needed to improve,” junior Lauren Huggins said. “We just have too many lulls. We have to be able to get a stop, then score, get a stop, then score. We did it during the third quarter against Washington, so we know we’re capable of it. We just need to be able to do it from the jump.”

Huggins said the Buffs were certainly disappointed to lose both games last weekend, especially at home, but “We have to just learn from the mistakes we made and continue to grow from that because it’s a long season.”

The Buffs might gain some confidence in looking at results from around the Pac-12. Despite their top-25 rankings, California was upset by Arizona (projected to finish last in the Pac-12) on Monday, while on the same night Stanford was held to a program-low 31 points in an 18-point loss to No. 14 Arizona State.

“The Pac-12 is pretty unpredictable, as we saw the first weekend,” Huggins said. “Being able to have confidence in ourselves and know what our abilities are and go in and challenge both of these teams, it’ll be a good weekend for us.”

Of course, it would be better if Swan could play, but the Buffs have practiced this week mostly without her. They may need to lean on Zoe Correal, Bri Watts and Zoe Beard-Fails to pick up the slack.

“We need post players to step up regardless of whether Jamee plays or not,” Lappe said. “We need some more production out of our post play. Being able to get that is going to be important no matter what.”

So is defense. The Buffs have given up at least 74 points in each game during a current three-game skid and they rank last in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 69.9 points per game.

“We have to defend,” Lappe said. “We can’t be giving up 75-80 points consistently, which we are.”

Ending that trend won’t be easy, but the Buffs will give it a shot.

“We’re definitely excited (for the opportunity),” Huggins said. “We haven’t really done as well as we wanted to on the road thus far, so what better way to start than against two really good teams?”

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