Every time Colorado women’s basketball coach JR Payne watched film of her team from last season, she was reminded of the annoying ambient noise that played in arenas.
“It didn’t sound like a crowd,” Payne said. “It sounded like static on the television. It was better than dead silent, but it was definitely not a normal feeling.”
The Buffs will get that normal feeling back on Monday when they host Colorado School of Mines in an exhibition at CU Events Center.
After playing the entire 2020-21 season in front of empty seats because of the COVID-19 pandemic, fans are allowed to come back.
“I’m really, really excited for it,” sophomore guard Frida Formann said. “I’m also a little bit nervous. I know that people have been watching us play (on TV or online), but to see them there in person is going to be something else. It just gives a different energy when you play when there’s someone cheering for you. And it means a lot that we have fans, so I’m just excited for people to show up.”
Although it’s only an exhibition, Payne hopes her team shows up and plays well in the only tune up for the Nov. 10 opener at Oklahoma State.
“People are going to come watch us play, so we have to be ready,” Payne said. “We’re still coming into our own, we’re still working to establish a brand of basketball that is what we want to be about.”
With a veteran team, Payne is hoping to see some consistency and sharp play from her team.
“There’s flashes of, ‘Wow, that was really great offensively,’ or flashes of, ‘That was really great defensively,’” she said. “But we have yet to be as consistent as we need to be or as consistent as we want to be.
“We’re definitely capable. There’s more people on our roster that know what it should look like and know what it should feel like on a daily basis. We’re further along than we’ve been before, certainly. … For us, we just want to play good, clean basketball.”
Regardless of how the Buffs play, they will enjoy the opportunity to have their fans in the stands again.
“We’re thrilled to have fans back and I would say people should come,” Payne said. “It’s been a long time since there’s been people in the Events Center for a basketball game. … People should come and watch us play and I think that they’ll see that we’re a really good team and that we play hard and it’ll be fun to watch us play.
“We’re excited to play someone other than ourselves as we’ve been practicing for several weeks now. The time is here, so we better be ready.”