Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
CU women’s basketball preview: No. 9 Oregon State
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (10-9, 0-8 Pac-12) at No. 9 Oregon State Beavers (17-3, 7-1)
GAME TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. MT, at Gill Coliseum in Corvallis, Ore.
BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Networks. Radio — KHOW 630 AM
COACHES: Colorado — JR Payne, 3rd season (42-41; 142-154 career). Oregon State — Scott Rueck, 9th season (196-92; 484-181 career).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G Quinessa Caylao-Do, Jr., 11.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg; G/F Mya Hollingshed, So., 11.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg; F Annika Jank, So., 6.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg; G Alexis Robinson, Sr., 11.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg; F Peanut Tuitele, Fr., 7.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg; G Lesila Finau, Fr., 2.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg. OSU — F Taya Corosdale, So., 7.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg; G Aleah Goodman, So., 9.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg; G Katie McWilliams, Sr., 8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg; G Mikayla Pivec, Jr., 15.1 ppg, 9.2 rpg; G Destiny Slocum, So., 15.5 ppg, 5.4 apg.
NOTABLE: The Buffs are looking to snap an eight-game losing streak. … CU is 6-8 all-time against Oregon State, including 1-4 in Corvallis. Oregon State has won the last five meetings. … CU has lost 10 straight against top-10 teams since a 68-65 upset of No. 8 Oregon State in the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament. … Robinson has averaged 21.0 points in the Buffs’ last three games. … CU is hoping to have Tuitele and junior Mathilde Diop at full strength. Both have been limited over the past week. … Goodman’s career 3-point percentage (.451) is the best in Oregon State history.
For nearly a month, Kennedy Leonard has maneuvered around the Colorado campus on a knee walker scooter. By now, she’s getting rather comfortable with it.
“I’ve mastered the cart,” she said with a smile.
It’s not exactly the skill Leonard had hoped to master, though. In the midst of her senior season with the Colorado women’s basketball team, the Buffaloes’ star point guard has missed the last five games with a foot injury and will miss at least two more. Leonard won’t play Friday when the Buffaloes (10-9, 0-8 Pac-12) visit No. 9 Oregon State or Sunday when they play at No. 4 Oregon.
For a basketball junkie who would live in the gym if she could, this has been a significant trial.
“It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” said Leonard, who had never missed a game in her CU career before this injury. “For me, I just feel so helpless on the sideline.
“It’s been tough. I’m just so used to playing basketball all the time.”
Leonard, who has been first-team All-Pac-12 the past two seasons, began feeling pain in her left foot before the Buffs’ conference opener against Utah on Dec. 30. She played all 40 minutes in a loss to the Utes, and in that game became CU’s all-time leader in assists.
“At first it was just kind of sore,” Leonard said. “I can play through a lot of things. After the Arizona game (on Jan. 4), I knew something wasn’t right. I took a bunch of pain meds and played against Arizona State (on Jan. 6).”
After the ASU game, though, Leonard spoke up to team doctors and they diagnosed the problem. Officially, CU is calling the injury a foot sprain.
“I meet with the doctors every week, I get treatment every day,” she said. “I do a ton of stuff, but there’s nothing really that fixes it except for time.”
In the time that she’s been out, the Buffs have struggled without her. She had played in 108 consecutive games, 100 in a row as a starter. In many of those games, she was on the floor for 35 minutes or more.
In an instant, the Buffs had to play without her, and they’ve gone with a point guard by committee approach. Sophomore Peyton Carter and freshman Sila Finau have played the point, while senior Alexis Robinson and junior Quinessa Caylao-Do have also spent time in that role.
“I think she’s trying to help the younger point guards; be a voice of encouragement or point things out here or there that she sees,” CU head coach JR Payne said of Leonard. “She’s doing everything she can to stay in shape and stay sort of dialed into what everybody else is doing.”
Leonard is also making the best of her situation by seeing the game through a different perspective.
“You never realize how hard it is to get through to people until you’re on the sidelines trying to help them,” she said. “It’s showing me another view of the game, so when I come back I can understand it from a better view and understand it through the eyes of what coaches see.”
Meanwhile, Leonard works out as much as she can on one leg, and she’s got more time for watching TV, reading the Bible or visiting her sister in Denver.
“I feel like I could play today, but it hasn’t been fixed,” she said. “I have to keep waiting it out. I’ll be back before the end of the season, I know that much, but I just don’t know when exactly.
“Everybody says everything happens for a reason. There’s a reason for this and I just had to take a step back and really think about that.”