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CU women’s basketball: Huggins having best year despite adversity

Colorado junior guard Lauren Huggins drives to the basket, showing part of her expanded game that has fueled her best season at CU.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado junior guard Lauren Huggins drives to the basket, showing part of her expanded game that has fueled her best season at CU.

CU women’s basketball preview: No. 10 Arizona State

MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (5-10, 0-4 Pac-12) at No. 10 Arizona State Sun Devils (11-3, 4-0).

GAME TIME: Friday, 11 a.m., MST at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz.

BROADCAST: Radio — KKZN (760 AM). TV – None.

COACHES: Colorado – Linda Lappe, sixth year (103-79; 153-115 career); Arizona State – Charli Turner Thorne, 19th year (367-216; 407-246 career).

LEADERS: Colorado – Scoring: F Jamee Swan, Sr., 15.4 ppg; Rebounding: Swan, 7.8 rpg; Assists: G Kennedy Leonard, Fr., 4.9 apg. ASU – Scoring: F Sophie Brunner, Jr., 11.4 ppg; Rebounding: Brunner, 6.7 rpg; Assists: G Elisha Davis, Sr., 5.4 apg.

NOTABLE: This is an early game because it is ASU’s annual field trip game for local kids. … CU leads the series 11-6, but is just 2-6 against the Sun Devils since joining the Pac-12. ASU has won the last four meetings. … ASU is the only team in the Pac-12 with a perfect conference record, and CU is one of two teams (along with Oregon) that are winless in the conference. … ASU has the longest current winning streak (eight games) in the Pac-12, while CU has the longest current losing streak (five).

Colorado’s Lauren Huggins has battled a lot of adversity in her few years with the Buffaloes basketball team, but instead of letting it get her down, she’s embraced the challenge and nurtured her game in the process.

When the 21-year-old, now junior guard arrived in Boulder four years ago from Heritage High School in Littleton, she started her collegiate career playing just five games before being sidelined by a stress fracture in her right leg. The NCAA granted her a medical hardship the following summer, which allowed her to regain that year of eligibility that she ultimately lost due to the injury.

Even though Huggins was disappointed that she couldn’t start off her college career strong, she made the best of the bad situation and came back improved.

“Obviously, you want to come in your freshman year and make an impact, and when I got sidelined due to injuries, it took me a while to take a deep breath and be like, ‘Maybe this is the best thing for me.’ I got to learn a lot about our system and what coach Lappe preaches on offense as well as defense,” she said.

“Then coming back, I felt like I had an upper hand on the freshmen that I was going to be playing with, so I would say that I definitely came back stronger and that the injuries didn’t necessarily handicap me, and they improved my basketball IQ as well as being able to translate on the floor.”

This year, the 6-foot-2 Huggins has been having her best season at Colorado, which her coach attributes to the expansion of her game. Anybody who has seen Huggins play in the past few years knows that she excels from 3-point range, but after a hard offseason of work, she’s become even more of a threat on offense.

“We’ve continued to try to help grow her game,” coach Linda Lappe said. “It’s really important that you’re multidimensional as an offensive player. She started off her career only being able to shoot threes. This year she’s been able to get to the rim a few times. I’m excited to see what the next year and a half will bring for her just in terms of adding more dimensions than what she already has.”

Last season, Huggins only scored two of her field goals inside the arc. Now, slightly more than midway through the regular season, she has recorded 11 shots inside of 3-point range as she averages 8.5 points a game.

Despite Huggins’ individual success this season, the Buffs (5-10 overall, 0-4 Pac-12) have faced additional adversity as they struggle to get wins. And, as with her injury, Huggins has found the silver lining in her team’s misfortune.

“Obviously, our record isn’t what we’re capable of performing at, but all of our games — most of our games — have been close, and that’s hard,” Huggins said. “But I think we’re just going to continue to fight and do what we do best, and everyone’s now settling into what their role is.”

Huggins and her teammates will now head to No. 10 Arizona State and Arizona on Friday and Sunday in search of that elusive next win.

Alissa Noe:

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