In preparing to face Utah this week, the first thing Colorado head coach JR Payne did was toss aside the scouting report the staff made in December.
The Buffs routed Utah, 80-50, on Dec. 14 in Boulder, but that was nearly 11 weeks ago.
“I’m completely redoing the scout on Utah, just because it’s been such a long time since we played and teams are so different, and even personnel is different, at this point in the year from the first week of December,” she said.
On Sunday, the Buffs (10-9, 8-8 Pac-12) will visit the Utes (5-15, 4-15) in the regular season finale, hoping for a similar result as that game in December.
Winners of four straight, the Buffs have a lot at stake Sunday. As of Saturday, they were No. 48 in the NET rankings, a tool that will be used in setting the 64-team field for the NCAA Tournament. A win against No. 116 Utah won’t help the Buffs a lot, but a loss would hurt.
CU also has a chance to finish with a winning record in Pac-12 play for the first time since the 2012-13 season. The Buffs could finish anywhere from fifth to seventh in the conference standings; they haven’t been higher than ninth since 2013.
Although Payne didn’t feel the Buffs played very well in a 55-50 win at Washington last Sunday, she said her team is playing with confidence.
“We feel very confident about who we are as a ball club,” she said. “I think we feel confident about our roles and who’s doing what and who’s contributing in what ways. We still have lots of areas to grow and we recognize that, but I do think that we all feel very comfortable with each other and sort of how we’re playing right now.”
Utah has lost five straight, and it’s an opponent that CU had no trouble with in December. Payne doesn’t believe the Buffs will look past the Utes, however.
“Even though we’re still a relatively young team, we have a very mature ball club in that regard,” she said. “There’s no way that our upperclassmen would allow anyone to even talk or think like that (in looking past Utah). Our preparation for every single game is the same, so our team knows that they are a team that absolutely could beat us and we’ve got to be ready.”
With a week to prepare for Utah, Payne said it’s been nice to focus on just one opponent, but ultimately, the Buffs are dialed-in on improving themselves. After facing Utah, the Buffs will play in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday in Las Vegas.
“The area that I really want to get better this week is having better offensive flow,” she said. “On Sunday we were pretty disjointed. And it’s just an area that I think when you get four or five days of practice, it’s something that you can actually really improve with an intentional effort and if the team is intentional about it and the coaches are intentional about it. Ironically, it’s something that Utah is really good at. They move the ball really well and (coach Lynne Roberts’) teams always are really good at that. Something that we’re focused on this week is just trying to move and have better pace within our offense.”
Payne said sophomore Jaylyn Sherrod, who had season-ending hip surgery a month ago, is “doing great” in rehab. “It’s gonna be really neat to see what she can do over the next few years with a healthy body,” Payne said. … Redshirt freshman center Maura Singer is also doing well. She has yet to play in two seasons a CU because of knee injuries. “She actually did some shooting drills with us last week, which was the first real basketball she’s done in about a year,” Payne said. “She’s doing really well.”
CU Buffs women’s basketball at Utah Utes
TIPOFF: Sunday, Noon MT, at Huntsman Arena in Salt Lake City
BROADCAST: Online – CUBuffs.com/watchWBB. Radio – 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 10-9 (8-8 Pac-12); Utah 5-15 (4-15 Pac-12)
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 5th season (70-73; 171-186 career). Utah – Lynne Roberts, 6th season (91-86; 312-261 career)
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Jr. (5.1 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.3 apg); G Frida Formann, 6-0, Fr. (11.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.1 apg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (16.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg); G Aubrey Knight, 6-0, Jr. (5.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Jr. (7.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg). Utah – W Niyah Becker, 6-2, Jr. (6.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G Dru Gylten, 5-11, Jr. (8.1 3.4 rpg, 5.2 apg); G Kemery Martin, 6-0, So. (11.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg); G Brynna Maxwell, 6-0, So. (12.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg); F Andrea Torres, 6-2, Jr. (5.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
NOTES: The Buffs bring a four-game winning streak into the game, including a 55-50 victory at Washington on Sunday. … The Buffs haven’t won five consecutive Pac-12 games since a 10-game winning streak from Feb. 3-March 8, 2013. … CU is 19-19 all-time against Utah, including 5-11 in Salt Lake City. … The Buffs beat the Utes, 80-50, on Dec. 14. Jaylyn Sherrod, now out with a hip injury, had 24 points in the CU win. … The Buffs haven’t swept the season series with Utah since 2015. … Utah has lost five in a row. … The Utes are 2-7 at home this season. … Utah leads the Pac-12 in free throws attempted (355) and made (245) and the Utes are third in 3-point attempts (446). … Maxwell’s free throw percentage (92.1) leads the Pac-12. … Gylten leads the Pac-12 with 5.2 assists per game, but she has not played the last five games for undisclosed reasons. Her last game was also Utah’s last win, 62-51, at California on Feb.5. … CU can finish fifth in the Pac-12 with win and Oregon State loss at Oregon; or with a loss and losses by Oregon State and Washington State (vs. Washington).