The last time the Arizona women’s basketball team came to Boulder, it carried a No. 11 national ranking and left with a stunning 50-38 loss.
With Arizona back in Boulder this week, the Colorado Buffaloes aren’t thinking about that Feb. 23 meeting. Instead, it’s what the Buffs did just a few days ago that has them brimming with confidence.
On Friday, the Buffs (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) host the No. 6 Wildcats (4-0) at the CU Events Center and they’ll look to build upon Monday’s 80-50 rout of Utah.
“Honestly, we haven’t even talked about (the Feb. 23 upset of Arizona) with our team,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “I think right now after a great, basically, two weeks of practice and a great game against Utah, I think we’re feeling really confident – more in who we are.”
CU snapped a three-game losing streak with the win against Utah. All three losses came during a five-day span, all on the road. A return home and six days off did the Buffs some good, and they hope to continue the momentum on Friday.
“We met as a staff and talked about we need to prioritize us more than our opponents,” Payne said. “We need to have an identity before we can start adjusting to every team that we’re playing and I think our team has responded to that.”
The Buffs certainly have flaws, including too many turnovers (15.2 per game) and struggles with 3-point shooting (26.9 percent) and free throws (63.9 percent). This is a team, however, that’s growing together, sharing the ball and rebounding well. Many of the Buffs’ best qualities were on display against Utah.
“I think it was a great start of where we want it to go,” senior Mya Hollingshed said. “I think Utah really set the tone of how we want to play every game and the expectation of how we should play every game.”
They’ll need to play that way all weekend. After facing Arizona on Friday, they will host Arizona State on Sunday.
“This is my favorite time of the year when school is done for about a month and we can just focus on being together as much as we can,” Payne said. “Being together and playing basketball, no stress of academics and school and things like that, where we can just really prioritize getting better and enjoying the process of being in the Pac-12 and all that good stuff.”
At the end of the weekend, the Buffs will get a much-needed reward. Payne and the coaches have decided to let the players go home for Christmas and get a break from daily COVID-19 testing and basketball for a few days.
“Our team I think has done a great job and has earned our trust to make good decisions (at home),” she said. “I trust them to make great decisions, their families know that they need to make great decisions. It just came down to, what’s our priority? Our student-athletes’ mental health and well-being and ability to have some normalcy with their families is more important than any basketball game at this point in the middle of a pandemic.”
Many of the players haven’t seen their families since returning to Boulder in the summer. Hollingshed said she’s grateful for the coaches’ decision.
“It means a lot,” Hollingshed said. “At first we were kind of sad that we weren’t going to be able to go home, but had that understanding that our season was just going to be a different season this year.
“When they told us that we could go home, it was emotional for a lot of players. Some players shed a few tears because of the excitement and enjoyment. That’s going to be big for everyone mentally to have a break from basketball and spend time with their families and enjoy the holidays.”
After the NCAA granted immediate eligibility to transfers, the Buffs are hoping to have junior Tayanna Jones available Friday against Arizona. A 6-foot-3 guard, Jones transferred to CU from Georgetown, where she played two seasons. Last year, she averaged 5.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
CU Buffs women’s basketball vs. Arizona Wildcats
TIPOFF: Friday, 5 p.m., at the CU Events Center in Boulder
BROADCAST: TV – Pac-12 Networks. Radio – 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 3-3 (1-2 Pac-12); No. 6 Arizona 4-0 (3-0 Pac-12)
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 5th season (63-67; 164-180 career). Arizona – Adia Barnes, 5th season (72-60).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Lesila Finau, 5-foot-9, Jr. (5.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 3.3 apg); G Frida Formann, 6-0, Fr. (11.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6 -3, Sr. (14.8 ppg, 9.5 rpg); G Aubrey Knight, 6-0, Jr. (5.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, So. (12.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.0 apg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Jr. (7.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg). Arizona – F Trinity Baptiste, 6-0, Sr. (9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Aari McDonald, 5-6, Sr. (21.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.5 apg); F Cate Reese, 6-2, Jr. (16.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg); F Lauren Ware, 6-5, Fr. (6.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg); G Bendu Yeaney, 5-10, Jr. (4.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg).
NOTES: CU is looking for a second consecutive win after knocking off Utah, 80-50, on Monday. … This is the second game of a five-game homestand for the Buffs. They are 3-0 at home this season. … CU leads the all-time series with Arizona, 17-7, including 11-2 in Boulder. The Buffs won the last meeting, 50-38, on Feb. 23, in Boulder. … Hollingshed is 22 points away from reaching 1,000 for her career. … Arizona knocked off rival Arizona State, 65-37, on Dec. 10 and has not played since. … The Wildcats have won 24 games in each of the previous two seasons. … McDonald is the NCAA’s active career scoring leader, with 1,846 points. She was a preseason All-American.