So far, the Colorado women’s basketball team has cleared every hurdle in its path.
Those were like speed bumps compared to the mountains the Buffaloes will try to pass this weekend.
On Friday, CU will take its 12-0 record into Eugene, Ore., to face the No. 2 team in the country, Oregon (10-1). That’s followed by a Sunday trip to Corvallis, Ore., to battle No. 3 Oregon State (12-0).
There may not be a tougher road trip in the country.
“Men and women,” CU head coach JR Payne added.
Projected to finish last in the Pac-12 and coming off a last-place finish a season ago, this is a monumental task in front of CU, but it’s one the Buffs are eager to tackle.
“These are moments that I’ve been waiting for since I was a kid,” said freshman point guard Jaylyn Sherrod, coming off her best game in an 80-70 win at Utah on Sunday. “This is why I came here, for times like this, so I’m really excited, ready to get going.”
To this point, CU has played what Realtimerpi.com ranks as the 241st-toughest schedule in the country. While the slate hasn’t provided a test anything like the Buffs will get this weekend, they go into the trip with confidence.
“What an incredible opportunity to get to go and play these teams when you have a team that’s very united and very much together,” Payne said. “I would take this team into any environment. I’m not saying we run the table on anybody, but I would take this team into any environment and believe in our ability to be successful.”
In addition to gaining confidence through wins, freshman center Charlotte Whittaker said each practice is helping the Buffs.
“We’re really locking down to what we need to improve on,” Whittaker said. “And I think just with the chemistry we have this year, we’re all kind of building off each other and that’s really cool to see.”
Payne said the Buffs are “confident in who we are,” which to this point is a team that’s been balanced and composed, even in rare times they have trailed late in a game.
This weekend will provide the Buffs with a better sense of where they stand among Pac-12 competition.
“We know how good Oregon and Oregon State is,” Sherrod said. “They’ve proven themselves night in and night out and I think we have done the same. We are underdogs, so whatever (outsiders) think might happen, we’re really not worried about. We’re just worried about playing our game, doing what we do and going out and hopefully getting a win.”
The Ducks feature the nation’s best player in point guard Sabrina Ionescu, as well as one of the top post players in the country, Ruthy Hebard. Whittaker is eager for the paint battles she’ll get this weekend.
“Coming from New Zealand, the bigs are a little bit smaller than me, so to come against really elite bigs that are potential draft picks, as well, is really exciting for me,” she said. “Just to have the opportunity as a freshman is super awesome.”
Opportunity was the key word for the Buffs as they prepared for the trip. They’re not expected to win this weekend, but they’ve got a shot if they play well.
“We just want to play the best that we’re capable of playing, offensively and defensively,” Payne said. “Absolutely, we are thrilled for the opportunity to play against two of the best teams and two of the best coaches in the country, twice in three days. If you’re a competitor, you want this opportunity. If you’re not a competitor, then you shouldn’t be in the Pac-12, and you shouldn’t be at Colorado, so we’re excited.”
CU women’s basketball preview: Oregon
MATCHUP: Colorado Buffaloes (12-0, 1-0 Pac-12) at No. 2 Oregon Ducks (10-1)
GAME TIME: Friday, 8 p.m. MT, at Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore.
BROADCAST: TV – Pac-12 Networks. Radio – 630 AM
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 4th season (56-50; 157-163 career). Oregon – Kelly Graves, 6th season (136-53; 518-215 career)
LEADERS: Colorado – Scoring: F Mya Hollingshed, Jr., 14.2 ppg; Rebounding: G Aubrey Knight, So., 7.2 rpg; Assists – G Jaylyn Sherrod, Fr., 5.7 apg. Oregon – Scoring: F Ruthy Hebard, Sr., 17.0 ppg; Rebounds: Hebard, 9.7 rpg. Assists: G Sabrina Ionescu, Sr., 9.2 apg.
NOTABLE: CU knocked off Utah, 80-70, in Salt Lake City on Sunday to win its Pac-12 opener for the first time since 2011-12. Sherrod had her first career double-double, with 19 points and 10 assists. … The Buffs are 8-16 all-time against Oregon, including 2-7 in Eugene. The Ducks have won the last three meetings. … These teams met once last year, with Oregon winning 102-43 in Eugene. … Going into Thursday’s games, the Buffs were one of just nine undefeated teams in the country. … Graves coached Payne at St. Mary’s from 1997-99. Payne then worked as an assistant under Graves at Gonzaga from 2000-05. … This is the Pac-12 opener for the Ducks, who beat Kansas State, 89-51, in their last outing, on Dec. 21 in Eugene. Ionescu recorded her 21st career triple-double, extending her national record. … Oregon is seeking a third consecutive Pac-12 championship. … The Ducks are 40-2 at home since the start of the 2017-18 season. … Since a 72-62 loss to No. 8 Louisville on Nov. 30 at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, Oregon is 4-0 with each win coming by at least 36 points. All 10 of Oregon’s wins have come by at least 17 points, with eight by at least 36. … Ionescu is a two-time Pac-12 player of the year and was named national player of the year last season.