Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
CU women’s basketball preview: Oregon
MATCHUP: No. 7 Oregon Ducks (18-3, 7-1 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (11-8, 2-6)
GAME TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. MT at Coors Events Center in Boulder.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Network. Radio — KHOW 630 AM
COACHES: Colorado — JR Payne, 2nd season (28-24 at CU; 129-137 career). Oregon — Kelly Graves, 4th season (78-45 at Oregon; 505-247 career).
LEADERS: Colorado — Scoring: G Kennedy Leonard, Jr., 14.3 ppg; Rebounding: F Annika Jank, Fr., 7.5 rpg; Assists: Leonard, Jr., 6.5 apg. Oregon — Scoring: G Sabrina Ionescu, So., 19.8 ppg; Rebounds: F Ruthy Hebard, So., 8.2 rpg; Assists: Ionescu, 7.3 apg.
NOTABLE: CU is looking to snap a four-game losing streak. … The Buffs are 8-13 all-time against the Ducks, including 4-5 in Boulder. CU won the last meeting, 76-66, in Boulder on Feb. 19, 2017. … Ionescu, who leads the Pac-12 in scoring and assists, has already set a new NCAA record for career triple doubles, with eight (four each season). By comparison, CU has had four triple doubles in program history. … Oregon is expected to play without senior guard Lexi Bando, the NCAA’s active career leader in 3-point percentage (45.5). … Leonard needs just two points to reach 1,200 for her career and tie Jen Reese (2011-15) for 20th in CU history. … Graves was Payne’s head coach at St. Mary’s in the late 1990s.
Throughout the nonconference schedule, the University of Colorado’s Annika Jank made the transition from high school to college basketball look easy.
The transition to the Pac-12 hasn’t been so smooth, however.
A talented, 6-foot-3 freshman forward from Edina, Minn., Jank is working through an adjustment period as the Buffaloes (11-8, 2-6 Pac-12) host No. 7 Oregon (18-3, 7-1) on Friday night in a game that marks the halfway point of conference play.
“I know I can do it; I’m just not doing it, which is kind of frustrating,” Jank said. “I just need to have more confidence in myself and just not think and go out there and play the game I love.”
That’s how Jank approached the game at the start of the season. In the 11-game nonconference schedule, she was one of the Buffs’ top players, averaging 13.7 points and 8.0 rebounds and hitting 50.4 percent of her shots. She was named the Pac-12 freshman of the week three times.
In eight conference games, however, Jank has posted just 6.8 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while hitting only 34.4 percent from the floor.
“It’s a little bit tougher (in the Pac-12), because defenses are just so much tougher and they know everything that you do,” she said. “The scouts are that much more in-depth. I just need to be back in my groove. I’m thinking about things a little bit too much and worrying about stuff. I just need to relax and just play my game I was playing in preseason and not worry about what they know I can do and can’t do.”
Jank can do a lot, as she proved early in the season. She can be an exceptional rebounder, and score from anywhere on the floor.
Jank’s rebounding has been solid in Pac-12 play for the most part, but points have been hard to come by. After scoring in double figures in nine of her first 10 games of the season, she’s hit double digits just once in the last nine. She has averaged 5.0 points in the last six games.
“The hardest thing is that most of Annika’s success comes from successfully hitting jump shots and rebounding and it’s hard to rely on jump shots when you’re all of a sudden going against the Monique Billings’ of the world and things get a little more difficult,” CU head coach JR Payne said, referring to the UCLA star and other standout defenders in the conference.
“But, her focus is still excellent, her effort is still excellent. She needs to be able to give us a little bit more from a rebounding standpoint, because rebounding can lead to free throws, can lead to easy buckets and I think gives us confidence.”
Despite the dip in production, Jank hasn’t lost her confidence.
“I just need to keep shooting my shot,” she said. “I’m passing up opportunities and not being as aggressive as I normally am. I’m still in the gym as much as I was in nonconference. I just need to play my game.”
Film sessions are helping, she said, and assistant coach Toriano Towns “has been telling me little things to focus on every day.”
In evaluating her first eight games of conference play, Jank said she realizes “you have to work way harder and you get fatigued faster.”
Going into the second half of the season, she’s eager to apply the lessons learned to this point and get back on track.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “Now that I think I’ve kind of settled in, I’m feeling better about things and now we cruise and go win some games.”
As the Buffs look to snap a four-game skid, Payne would love to see all of her players improve, but said she’s not too worried about Jank.
“She’s going to be totally fine, but it is a totally different level of play for her,” Payne said. “On any night, if she’s getting good looks at the basket, she can shoot it and she can rebound. On any night, she has the ability to go for 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds); it’s just a matter of getting those open shots, shooting it when you’re open and then being consistent on the glass.”