Practicing on the CU Events Center floor recently, it almost felt like a foreign arena to the Colorado women’s basketball team.
After nearly a month on the road, the Buffaloes have quickly readjusted to their home court, however, and are eager to play in front of their fans this weekend.
CU (12-2, 1-2 Pac-12) will host Southern California (8-6, 0-3) on Friday night, with No. 8 UCLA (14-0, 3-0) coming in Boulder on Sunday.
“I’m super excited,” sophomore Peanut Tuitele said. “It’s been five games that we haven’t been here, so it’s nice to finally play back in our home court and have the Buff nation watch us at home.”
The last time the Buffs played at the Events Center, they had perhaps their best performance of the season in a 96-70 victory against Denver on Dec. 12.
Since then, they’ve hit their first bit of adversity, picked up a few lessons along the way and learned more about each other.
After a 12-0 start, CU comes into Friday on a two-game losing streak, dropping both games of a brutal road trip to No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Oregon State.
Losing is not what has lingered with the Buffs this week, however. Instead, it’s how they dealt with the weekend. Shell-shocked and outmatched against Oregon last Friday, they lost by 58 points. Two days later, they took the third-ranked Beavers to the wire in a 12-point loss.
“I learned that even though we are young, we are extremely resilient and we have the ability to bounce back, which you must have in this conference,” head coach JR Payne said.
Time will tell if the bounce-back effort against Oregon State is a turning point for the season, but it certainly has impacted the Buffs this week.
“I think we made an impression, we made a statement that we can really compete with any of these guys in the conference,” junior Mya Hollingshed said. “If we continue to grow and keep making each other better, we’ll be a top contender.
“That’s what I love about this team; we learn from our mistakes and we try to get better the next day.”
Payne was surprised to see her team buckle at Oregon. The Ducks are national title contenders and pressure is on them to win every game, but Hollingshed said, “I think we put that pressure on ourselves more than we needed to.”
Competing for four quarters with OSU was more to Payne’s liking and the message to the team this week is play with confidence.
“We have to get our team to understand we’re a dang good basketball team,” Payne said. “There aren’t too many teams in the country that have had seven different players lead them in scoring, that have outrebounded every single opponent up until (last weekend).
“There’s a lot of great things and we cannot allow our history to dictate our future, because we’re a different ball club – emotionally, mentally, physically, all of it.”
Although they finished last in the Pac-12 a year ago and were predicted to finish last again this year, the Buffs already have a conference win under their belts and look forward to the opportunity to pick up more this weekend at home.
“Last year was depleting, losing game after game,” Tuitele said. “But this year, we know what we’re capable of, and we know what we’re worth. So I think once we hit on all cylinders, and we’re all connected, we can be a scary team in the Pac-12.”
CU women’s basketball preview: USC
MATCHUP: Southern California Trojans (8-6, 0-3 Pac-12) at Colorado Buffaloes (12-2, 1-2 Pac-12)
GAME TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. MT, at CU Events Center in Boulder
BROADCAST: TV – Pac-12 Networks. Radio – 630 AM
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 4th season (56-52; 157-165 career). USC – Mark Trakh, 3rd season (135-94 in 8 seasons, two stints at USC; 438-297 career).
LEADERS: Colorado – Scoring: F Mya Hollingshed, Jr., 13.6 ppg; Rebounding: G Aubrey Knight, So., 6.9 rpg; Assists – G Jaylyn Sherrod, Fr., 5.4 apg. USC – Scoring: F Alissa Pili, Fr., 12.8 ppg; Rebounds: Pili, 7.7 rpg; Assists: G Desiree Caldwell, So., 3.8 apg.
NOTABLE: The Buffs are looking to snap a two-game losing streak, including Sunday’s 72-60 loss at No. 3 Oregon State. Peanut Tuitele led CU with 15 points and six rebounds in that game. … The Buffs are 7-12 all-time against USC, including 4-5 in Boulder. … This is the first of three consecutive home games for the Buffs. … CU starting center Charlotte Whittaker played just 3 minutes, 29 seconds against Oregon State before leaving with a leg injury. Payne said, “She’s gradually improving, day by day, so we’re not sure that she’ll be able to play this weekend. But, she’s definitely getting better every day.” … Payne said the Trojans are “competitive and athletic,” which have been trademarks of recent USC teams. … USC ranks among the top five in the country in 3-point field goal defense, holding opponents to 23.1 percent shooting. … CU assistant coach Shandrika Lee played her college career at Pepperdine, where Trakh was head coach.