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After two-week hiatus, CU Buffs women’s basketball looks to recapture momentum against Washington

Coach JR Payne allowed Buffs to go home for Christmas

BOULDER, CO – December 17, 2020: Colorado’s Lesila Finau drives on Arizona’s Helena Pueyo during the Colorado Arizona WBB game in Boulder on December 18, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Just when the Colorado women’s basketball team was gathering a little momentum, fate and a quirk of the calendar conspired against the Buffaloes.

Now, after a two-week hiatus between games, the Buffs will be challenged to get that momentum back.

On Dec. 14, the Buffs put together their finest all-around performance of the season, routing Utah by 30 points at home. Four days later, CU probably would have upset No. 6 Arizona if not for an 11-for-22 outing at the free throw line.

While that defeat was frustrating, the Buffs had seemingly turned a corner following three consecutive losses, including their first two Pac-12 games. However, CU’s next scheduled game on Dec. 20 against Arizona State was postponed due to COVID-19 protocols, despite both teams ultimately testing negative ahead of the game. After the Buffs scattered for a short Christmas break, they will attempt to recapture that mid-December momentum during a Friday afternoon home date against Washington.

“It was very, very disappointing, especially because we could have waited a few hours and gotten all the negative results and played the (ASU) game,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “So it was disappointing for a lot of reasons. We feel like we were playing really good basketball. Against Utah we played really well. Against Arizona we felt really good about how we played for the most part, minus the poor free throw shooting that doomed us at the end. We wanted that other opportunity to play against Arizona State. Every day you kind of got to take it day by day, or even hour by hour sometimes.”

Unlike the men’s basketball team, which remained in Boulder during Christmas, Payne allowed her club to travel home after the ASU game was postponed. While Payne and her staff were left to simply hope their players made sound decisions while away from campus, ultimately she believed the mental break was more than worth the risk.

“It was so good for them. The benefit of that was well worth the potential risk of them leaving our immediate area,” Payne said. “Initially we told them in September that we probably won’t be able to go home at Christmas. At that time there was a mandatory seven-day quarantine when you left the state of Colorado and come back. So we had prepared them for that.

“To be honest, it just was more important. Their overall mental health, the amount of stress that all of us have been through, it’s been very difficult. But when you add the fact you’re 18 to 22-years old and you’re trying to do all your classes online and there’s so much up and down, we really felt like there was nothing more important than being with their families for a few days. When I told them the night after the Utah game they could go home, half of them started crying. That solidified in my mind it was the right decision.”

Washington arrives at the CU Events Center on the heels of three losses in four games and while trying to shake off its own extended break. The Huskies last played on Dec. 19, suffering a 24-point loss in a Pac-12 battle against Oregon before having their scheduled Dec. 21 date against Oregon State postponed.

“They’re a really good team that plays unbelievably hard,” Payne said. “If I had to list the hardest-playing teams in the league, no matter win, lose or draw that just plays their hearts out, Washington would be at the top of that list in this conference.”

Washington Huskies at CU Buffs women’s basketball

TIPOFF: Friday, 3 p.m., CU Events Center.

BROADCAST: TV — Pac-12 Livestream (Pac-12.com/live/cubuffs); Radio — 630 AM.

RECORDS: Washington 4-3, 1-3 Pac-12 Conference; Colorado 3-4, 1-3.

COACHES: Washington — Jody Wynn, 4th season (35-64, 172-183 overall); Colorado — JR Payne, 5th season (63-68, 164-181 overall).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — F Mya Hollingshed, Sr., 14.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg; G Jaylyn Sherrod, So., 12.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.0 apg; G Frida Formann, Fr., 11.6 ppg, .459 3-point percentage. Washington — G Tameiya Sadler, Fr., 14.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg, .521 field goal percentage; C Quay Miller, So., 10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg; F Haley Van Dyke, Jr., 9.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg.

NOTES: Washington has won 12 of its past 14 games against the Buffs and leads the all-time series 15-10…Since getting inserted into the starting lineup three games ago, Formann has shot .485 overall (16-for-33) with an 11-for-19 mark on 3-pointers…Sherrod posted 13 assists against six turnovers in the season’s first three games but has posted eight assists with 17 turnovers in the past four games…UW’s Sadler has missed the past two games due to an undisclosed injury…CU’s homestand concludes on Sunday against Washington State (noon, Pac-12 Networks).