CU women’s basketball preview: Kentucky
GAME TIME: Saturday, 7 p.m.
MATCHUP: Kentucky Wildcats (3-0) at Colorado Buffaloes (2-0).
BROADCAST: Radio — 1190 AM; TV — None.
Kentucky — Matthew Mitchell, 10th season (222-89, 252-118 overall); Colorado — JR Payne, 1st season (2-0, 103-113 overall).
Kentucky — Scoring: F Evelyn Akhator, Sr., 21 ppg; Rebounding: Akhator, 11.3 rpg; Assists: G Makayla Epps, Sr., 5.3. Colorado — Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, So., 23.0 ppg; Rebounding: F Zoe Correal, Jr., 7.0 rpg; Assists: Leonard, 8.5 apg.
NOTABLE: The Buffs suffered an 86-61 loss last year at Kentucky in the programs’ first meeting. CU actually outrebounded Kentucky 38-35, but the Wildcats went 11-for-18 from 3-point range. Leonard paced the Buffs with 15 points and 10 assists…Leonard has hit 17 of 32 field goals through the first two games…Leonard and Robinson have combined to go 9-for-22 from 3-point range…Five different CU players are averaging at least five rebounds.
Alexis Robinson did a lot of good things during her freshman season with the University of Colorado women’s basketball team.
Robinson, though, always felt as if she didn’t do those good things frequently enough. Or with enough consistency.
Often Robinson believed she played a little frenetically as a rookie. As she began preparations for her sophomore season, the 5-foot-10 guard understood that simply slowing down on the floor would lead to a more consistent offensive game.
Though the sample size is small so far, Robinson’s offseason work appears to be paying dividends. She will look to keep her hot start intact in a somewhat personal battle Saturday at the Coors Events Center against No. 15 Kentucky, the marquee matchup of the Buffaloes’ nonconference slate.
“I really wanted to work on getting more consistent in all things as a scorer,” Robinson said. “Since I’ve gotten here they’ve been working on me about my pace, so I’m slowing down and seeing the game and seeing the floor better instead of playing at just one speed.
“The coaches have really been on me about getting boards, and making plays defensively and offensively. That doesn’t mean just scoring a lot of points, but I’ve got to find other ways to score points, or other ways for the team to score points.”
Robinson played in all 30 games last year and made 20 starts, including the last 18 in a row, while averaging 7.6 points per game. While unquestionably a stellar outside shooter, Robinson still had trouble adapting to the pace and athleticism of the college game, shooting just .310 overall and .324 from 3-point range. Her free throw percentage of .647 also was behind the pace for a shooter of Robinson’s caliber.
In CU’s 2-0 start heading into Saturday’s showdown, Robinson is showing signs of ironing out some of those wrinkles in her game. She has shot 15-for-27 overall with a 4-for-11 mark from long range. Robinson has attempted just six free throws but has knocked down five of them.
Moreover, Robinson so far is displaying an expanded game. With six steals already she is on pace to reach her freshman total of 25 steals within nine game. After posting an even assist-to-turnover rate last year (75 assists, 75 turnovers), Robinson recorded a career-high eight assists in Sunday’s win against Air Force and has so far compiled nine assists against just three turnovers.
“I know she put a lot of time into her perimeter shooting, so that perimeter shooting is probably the biggest difference from last year to this year in her consistency,” first-year CU coach JR Payne said. “We talk to her all the time about with her athleticism and length, she should average six steals a game as quick as she is and as long as she is. I think it’s something she’s really starting to understand that she can have an impact on the game through her defense.”
Saturday’s Kentucky challenge will be an opportunity for Payne’s new-look Buffs to measure themselves against a quality national opponent for the first time this season. It also will be a chance for Robinson, a native of Ashland, Kent., to perhaps make up for the struggles she endured in last year’s homecoming game at Kentucky.
In just her third collegiate game last year, Robinson played in front of dozens of friends and family members when the Buffs visited Kentucky last year but struggled, going 2-for-10 with six points and four turnovers in 24 minutes. Of course it was a rough day overall for CU, which fell behind 23-7 at the end of the first quarter and never threatened. Saturday’s matchup will provide an opportunity to see just how much the youthful Buffs have grown in the past year.
“They recruited me and I took a lot of visits there. It is my home state and I’ll always love it,” Robinson said. “A lot of the people that support me came (last year). It was great, but it was definitely an eye-opener. The speed of the game was a lot different. This is a huge game and really a test for us to see where we are on the national stage.”