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CU Buffs women’s basketball back to work

After Pac-12 Tournament disappointment and weekend off, Buffs prepare for postseason

Colorado huddles up before facing Washington during the first round of the Pac-12 women's basketball tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
Colorado huddles up before facing Washington during the first round of the Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

Last weekend, Colorado women’s basketball coach JR Payne got away from the game.

She spent time with her family, enjoyed the warm spring weather and tried to avoid thinking about the Buffaloes’ last game.

“I spent three days with my kids and we played at the park and we did all kinds of things that we never get to do, and I think that was good for everyone,” Payne said.

CU (10-10) was upset by 11th-seeded Washington, 68-54, in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament on March 3 in Las Vegas. The Buffs went into Vegas on the NCAA Tournament bubble and knew a win or two could possibly get them in.

Now at No. 54 in the NET rankings, the Buffs are almost surely out of the NCAA Tournament picture, but are practicing this week in anticipation of being invited to the Women’s NIT.

The NCAA and WNIT brackets will be announced on Monday.

“The biggest thing is just trying to really focus on areas that we can get better,” Payne said. “We definitely believe that we’ve earned the right to play in the postseason, just like we did last year.”

Last year, of course, the Buffs never got that chance. It was almost exactly a year ago that CU was in the middle of practices, anticipating a WNIT invitation, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought an abrupt end of the season.

This year, it appears the postseason tournaments will be played, albeit with different formats than in the past. Regardless of the format, the Buffs have put themselves in position for a spot in the 32-team WNIT field.

Still, Payne felt that after the loss to Washington, a break was needed. The entire team had four days off, last Thursday through Sunday. Payne didn’t watch the Washington film until Monday morning.

“I think it was really good for everybody,” she said.

Now back to work, the Buffs are aiming to put the Washington loss behind them and finish the season the right way.

“We get about eight or nine days to practice before we even have the opportunity to play again so, where do we need to get better?,” she said.

It’s not in Payne’s nature to wallow in the misery of a loss, and the Buffs have taken that approach as a team. The postseason can offer the Buffs a chance to rebound.

“There’s just so many blessings right in front of us, we just have to make a decision that we’re going to be about that and not be about staying in the disappointment of what happened a week ago,” she said.

“I think as a staff we’re very honest with ourselves and each other and our team about this is what we didn’t do well; this is what we’re going to do to fix it; and here’s how we’re going to do it.”

Although the opportunity play in the postseason in 2020 was taken away, the Buffs are on a two-year run the program hasn’t enjoyed in a while. They have a chance to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since four in a row from 2011-14.

“I think that speaks volumes to the players in our program,” Payne said.

“(This year), there’s been a fair amount of adversity, so to still qualify for postseason is, I think, incredible and it’s exciting. For me, I’m still just really disappointed in the last time we played, but the blessing is that we get to play again so we’re going to get a chance to keep working on our craft, keep getting better and then hopefully sort of erase that disappointment.”