Paul Aiken / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
CU women’s basketball preview: Colorado State
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (6-1) at Colorado State Rams (5-2)
GAME TIME: Wednesday, 7 p.m., at Moby Arena in Fort Collins
BROADCAST: TV – Pac-12 Plus. Radio – KHOW 630 AM
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 2nd season (23-17 at CU; 124-139 career). CSU – Ryun Williams, 6th season (120-48; 378-201 career).
LEADERS: Colorado – Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, Jr., 16.0 ppg; Rebounding – F Annika Jank, Fr., 7.9 rpg; Assists – Leonard, Jr., 7.1 apg. CSU – Scoring: G/F Lore Devos, Fr., 10.7 ppg; Rebounds: F Annie Brady, Jr., 6.1 rpg; Assists: G Grace Colaivalu, Fr., 3.0 apg.
NOTABLE: CU leads the all-time series with the Rams, 36-12, including 12-10 in Fort Collins. … CU is 6-1 in the last seven meetings, with the only loss being a 64-63 defeat at Moby Arena on Dec. 2, 2015. … Leonard has averaged 26.0 points, 5.5 assists and 5.0 rebounds in two games against the Rams, including a career-high 31 points on Dec. 8, 2016, in Boulder. … CSU ranks ninth nationally in fewest turnovers per game (11.9), and the Rams are 21st nationally in field goal percentage defense (.341). … CU is 34th nationally in field goal percentage (.457).
It’s been two years since Kennedy Leonard and the Colorado women’s basketball team played in Fort Collins, but she still remembers the raucous crowd at Moby Arena.
Now a junior, Leonard isn’t expecting anything different when the Buffaloes (6-1) visit Colorado State (5-2) on Wednesday night.
“I think it’s a really good test (for the Buffs),” Leonard said. “The seats are right on top of you. It kind of reminds me of Cal’s Haas Pavilion; it’s exactly like that. It’s pretty hostile and everybody is yelling at you and screaming at you. I think it’ll be a big test and I think it’ll show a lot about our maturity and how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.”
CU will bring a five-game winning streak into the game, while the Rams have won three in a row.
“I’m excited, obviously,” said Leonard, who has averaged 26 points in two career games against the Rams. “It’s our biggest in-state rival, and to go up there and play in their house is an advantage for them, but I’m excited to go up there with a brand-new team and a new system.”
Head coach J.R. Payne is eager to see how her team responds, as well. While the Buffs are playing well this season, they have eight new players that have never been in a rivalry game with CSU and haven’t been to Fort Collins for a contest.
“We’ve talked about it and our men’s team was just there, so we have an idea of some things their fans might say or the environment it might be for us,” Payne said. “It’ll be really different, really for all of us, other than (the upperclassmen who were there in 2015). They have great fans, they’re really loyal and really supportive of their women’s teams as well as their men’s teams, so it’ll be good for us.”
As is always the case, playing good defense and rebounding are the keys for CU to come away from Moby with a win, but mental toughness could be an even bigger key, especially as the Buffs play for the first time in a week.
“We just need to make sure we’re really focused and dialed in and prepared for a really aggressive team from the start,” Payne said. “You have to be dialed in from the jump, because Colorado State is a team that also plays very hard and plays really tough. We have to be prepared for that in a difficult environment.”