CU Buffs women to face Ole Miss in WNIT quarterfinals

Postseason run is longest since 2012

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. - March 20, 2021: Colorado's Mya Hollingshed, center, puts up a shot against Nebraska defenders during a Women's NIT second round game at My Town Movers Fieldhouse. (Nigel Amstock/CU Independent).
COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. – March 20, 2021: Colorado’s Mya Hollingshed, center, puts up a shot against Nebraska defenders during a Women’s NIT second round game at My Town Movers Fieldhouse. (Nigel Amstock/CU Independent).

Every day that the Colorado women’s basketball team has practice, head coach JR Payne writes the date on the workout plan.

She did a bit of a double take on Sunday when she wrote “March 21st.”

“That’s incredible,” Payne said. “Just to think that you’re playing almost all the way to April is really, really cool and just such a testament to everything our players have done to get us this far this year.”

On Monday, the Buffs (12-10) will face Mississippi (13-11) in the quarterfinals of the Women’s NIT at My Town Movers Fieldhouse in Collierville, Tenn.

This is CU’s deepest run in the WNIT since reaching the quarterfinals in 2012. They earned it by knocking off Louisiana in the first round on Friday and Nebraska in the second round on Saturday.

CU has won six of its last seven games heading into the matchup against the Rebels.

“I think as we’ve grown throughout the season, I think we’re ready to take on all the kinds of up and downs throughout the game,” center Charlotte Whittaker said after the 75-71 win against Nebraska. “I think we’ve just come so much closer as a ballclub, and we really have trust in each other and the systems that our coaches have put in, too.”

The Buffs will face a new kind of test Monday, as Ole Miss features a lineup of long, athletic players, led by 6-foot-5 forward Shakira Austin.

“They’re different from anyone we’ve played,” Payne said. “They’re long like Oregon, but they don’t shoot the ball like Oregon. They’re also way more athletic than Oregon, so they’re just different than anyone we’ve seen. It’s definitely a different challenge.”

Payne said the Buffs will need to handle the Rebels’ pressure and “frenetic style” and that competing for rebounds will be critical.

More than anything, though, the Payne said the Buffs have to stay composed and “play our style of basketball, regardless of who they are.”

That includes getting senior Mya Hollingshed going.

CU’s leading scorer, at 15.8 points per game, Hollingshed has scored a total of just 13 points in the first two WNIT games. She was held to three points against Nebraska, spending much of the day on the bench in foul trouble.

The lower numbers are mainly a product of the Buffs’ opponents focusing on Hollingshed.

“Mya’s facing double and triple teams pretty much every time she touches it,” Payne said. “She’s a willing passer, she’s happy to share the ball and I think picking up fouls is always difficult for a post player, because it makes you hesitant to be aggressive offensively, it makes you hesitant to be aggressive defensively. That’s a tough spot to play in.”

Payne said the coaching staff will try to find ways to help Hollingshed get the ball with opportunities to succeed, while also trying to take advantage of those times when the senior is double and triple teamed.

Payne added she’s not worried about Hollingshed, though, especially as others have stepped up.

“I know Mya’s mind is in the right space,” Payne said. “She was in there celebrating as much as anybody in the locker room (after the Nebraska win). She’s all about her teammates right now. She’s not a selfish player or person.

“Mya is a very mature, confident young lady and she’ll have a great game next time out.”

CU Buffs women’s basketball vs. Mississippi Rebels                                                                                   

TIPOFF: Monday, 6 p.m. MT, at My Town Movers Fieldhouse in Collierville, Tenn.

BROADCAST: Online – Radio – 630 AM

RECORDS: Colorado 12-10 (8-8 Pac-12); Mississippi 13-11 (4-10 SEC)

COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 5th season (72-74; 173-187 career). Mississippi – Yolett McPhee-McCuin, 3rd season (29-56; 123-119 career).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Jr. (5.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.5 apg); G Frida Formann, 6-0, Fr. (12.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.0 apg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (15.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg); G Aubrey Knight, 6-0, Jr. (5.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Jr. (7.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg). Mississippi – F Shakira Austin, 6-5, Jr. (18.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.6 bpg); F Snudda Collins, 6-1, Fr. (6.7 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G Donnetta Johnson, 5-11, So. (12.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.2 apg); G Valerie Nesbitt, 5-8, Sr. (6.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.0 apg); G Mimi Reid, 5-8, Jr. (5.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 4.7 apg); F Madison Scott, 6-1, Fr. (9.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg).

NOTES: This is the quarterfinal round of the Women’s NIT. CU has defeated Louisiana, 68-45, and Nebraska, 75-71, in the first two rounds. … Tuitele has averaged 14.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in the WNIT, while Formann has averaged 16.0 points and Finau 10.0 points and 5.0 assists. … CU is making its seventh all-time appearance in the WNIT and is 16-6 overall. This will be the Buffs’ fourth time in the quarterfinals. They reached the semifinals once, in 2008. … CU and Ole Miss have never met in women’s basketball. … The winner of this game will advance to the semifinals against Northern Iowa or Saint Louis. That game is scheduled for Friday at My Town Movers Fieldhouse. … Ole Miss is playing in the WNIT for the eighth time in its history. The Rebels are 6-7 in this event. This is the first time they’ve reached the quarterfinals. … The Rebels defeated Samford, 64-45, and Tulane, 72-61, in the first two rounds. Austin had 23 points, 12 rebounds against Samford and 24 points, 13 rebounds against Tulane. … Ole Miss has clinched its first winning season since 2016-17. … Austin, a transfer from Maryland, was named first-team All-SEC, while Scott was named the SEC freshman of the year. Scott and Collins both made the SEC All-Freshman team. … Head coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin had a positive COVID-19 test before the WNIT and has missed both games of the tournament. She will also miss the game against the Buffs. Assistant Shay Robinson will be acting head coach against CU.

Remaining WNIT schedule

All times Mountain

Quarterfinals, Monday, March 22

Rice (20-4) vs. California Baptist (26-0), 6 p.m., at Fort Worth, Texas

Delaware (23-4) vs. Villanova (17-6), 5 p.m., at Charlotte, N.C.

Colorado (12-10) vs. Mississippi (13-11), 6 p.m., at Collierville, Tenn.

Northern Iowa (16-12) vs. Saint Louis (14-4), 6 p.m., at Rockford, Ill.

Semifinals, Friday, March 26

At Collierville, Tenn.

Rice/Cal Baptist winner vs. Delaware/Villanova winner, 3 p.m.

Colorado/Mississippi winner vs. Northern Iowa/Saint Louis winner, 6 p.m.

Championship, Sunday, March 28

At Collierville, Tenn.

Semifinal winners, Noon