The Colorado women’s basketball team has plenty of work to do in the next few weeks, but this is already shaping up to be the program’s best campaign in years.
On Sunday, the Buffaloes (9-9, 7-8 Pac-12) will visit Washington (6-11, 3-11) and look to extend their hot streak.
“We always want to walk in and we want to do what we do best: play Colorado basketball,” senior Mya Hollingshed said. “We want to be a team, we want to be cohesive, listen to our coaches. … We know what’s at stake.”
With two games remaining in the regular season – unless the Pac-12 adds another one or two – the Buffs are enjoying a level of success the program hasn’t experienced in recent years.
Certainly, they are a long way from the glory days under coach Ceal Barry from the 1980s to early 2000s, but the Buffs are showing progress.
CU will take a three-game winning streak into Seattle on Sunday, marking the program’s longest conference win streak since 2012-13. The Buffs have also won seven conference games in a season for the first time since 2012-13 and just the second time in the past 17 years.
Friday’s 60-57 win against Washington State was the Buffs’ first victory in Pullman, Wash., in nine years.
“They are absolutely big steps,” head coach JR Payne said. “I wouldn’t say there’s anything small about it. This league is so good and this year is just such a challenging year. Now granted, it’s challenging for everyone, but I think every single thing that we’re accomplishing is a huge step.”
Through it all, the Buffs have leaned on the leadership of Hollingshed and juniors Sila Finau, Peanut Tuitele and Aubrey Knight.
“It’s a credit and testament to people like Mya and Sila and Peanut and Aubrey and the kids that have been here a long time and have put in a whole lot of work to get us into a position where we’re really, really competing at a high level here,” Payne said.
With Friday’s win, the Buffs moved up six spots in the NET rankings to No. 50. The NET is one tool that will be used to determine the 64 qualifiers for the NCAA Tournament. CU has been to the tourney just once in the previous 16 seasons, in 2013.
“We knew the game before that we needed three wins to have a good chance at the NCAA Tournament,” Hollingshed said after the win against Washington State. “We know our goals and what we’re working for (to get into the) postseason. But what we also know is that we have to take one game at a time. We’re not going to play all three games in one night, so each night is very important.
“I think everybody knows what’s at stake and everybody’s on board.”
After playing the 11th-place Huskies on Sunday, the Buffs have a Feb. 28 date at 10th-place Utah (5-14, 4-14). There’s also a chance the Pac-12 will reschedule at least one of the five games that have been postponed.
Hollingshed and the Buffs will continue to focus on the task at hand, but she admits it’s been fun to enjoy the type of success CU hasn’t experienced in several years.
“It’s always great to make history, especially for Colorado and for our fans,” she said. “I know they’re watching and they’re supporting us from at home, being that they can’t be there in person. … In the Pac-12, you’re going to see a tough team every night, so you just have to play. We talk about this all the time, put a great 40 minutes together. It’s not always gonna be pretty, but playing a good 40 minutes and be able to chase a win.”
CU Buffs women’s basketball at Washington Huskies
TIPOFF: Sunday, 3 p.m. MT, at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle
BROADCAST: Online – Pac-12.com/live/university-washington. Radio – 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 9-9 (7-8 Pac-12); Washington 6-11 (3-11 Pac-12)
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 5th season (69-73; 170-186 career). Washington – Jody Wynn, 4th season (37-72; 174-191 career)
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Jr. (5.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.4 apg); G Frida Formann, 6-0, Fr. (11.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (17.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg); G Aubrey Knight, 6-0, Jr. (6.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Jr. (7.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg). Washington – C Quay Miller, 6-3, So. (9.9 ppg, 6.1. rpg); F Darcy Rees, 6-4, Jr. (8.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Khayla Rooks, 6-1, Sr. (6.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Tameiya Sadler, 5-8, Fr. (9.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg); F Haley Van Dyke, 6-0, Jr. (12.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.3 spg).
NOTES: The Buffs bring a three-game winning streak into the game, including a 60-57 victory at Washington State on Friday. Hollingshed had 28 points and 12 rebounds in the win. … The Buffs haven’t won four consecutive Pac-12 games since a 10-game winning streak from Feb. 3-March 8, 2013. … CU is 11-15 all-time against Washington, including 3-8 in Seattle. … CU beat the Huskies, 60-50, on Jan. 1 in Boulder. Hollingshed had 19 points. … Hollingshed needs five points to reach 1,200 for her career and tie Jen Reese (2011-15) for 22nd on CU’s career list. … Hollingshed leads the Pac-12 in rebounding (8.6 per game) and ranks fifth in scoring (17.0 per game). … After losing eight in a row, the Huskies have won two of their last three games, including 78-61 against Utah on Friday. Van Dyke had 22 points and Miller had a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in the win. … At one point, Washington had five consecutive games postponed due to COVID-19. In all, the Huskies have had seven games postponed, but rescheduled one of them.