A hot start has led to some national attention for the Colorado women’s basketball team.
On Monday, the Buffaloes vaulted into the Associated Press Top 25 rankings for the first time in nearly five years, landing at No. 25.
This is the first time the Buffs (8-0) have been ranked since sitting at No. 20 in the Dec. 26, 2016 poll. That year, the Buffs were ranked in five consecutive weeks before falling out of the rankings after the Dec. 26 poll.
CU will visit Southern Utah (4-4) on Tuesday night, seeking its second 9-0 start in the past three years. The Buffs opened at 12-0 in 2019-20.
The Buffs received votes last week for the first time this year. In this week’s poll, the Buffs received 52 points, edging Florida Gulf Coast (51) for the No. 25 spot.
South Carolina remained a unanimous No. 1, while the CU is one of four Pac-12 teams in the Top 25, along with Stanford (No. 4), Arizona (No. 6) and Oregon State (No. 23). Oregon, which was No. 18 last week, dropped out of the rankings and is second among others receiving votes (48 points). UCLA and Washington State also received votes.
Tuesday will mark head coach JR Payne’s first game against her old team since she left the Thunderbirds in 2014.
Payne’s first head coaching job came with SUU from 2009-14. She went just 67-86, but turned the program around, leading the Thunderbirds to a tie for the Big Sky title in her final year.
CU assistant coach Toriano Towns — Payne’s husband — and the Buffs’ director of operations, Jill Mahoney, were on Payne’s staff at SUU.
“Cedar City was home to T and Jill and I for five years, and we won a championship there and have great memories,” Payne said. “We love that place. We love the community. A lot of people that are close like family will come to the game and it’ll be fun to be back there.”
Payne’s expecting a tough game, however, as she faces her former St. Mary’s College teammate Tracy Sanders, the Thunderbirds’ head coach.
“They’re a very good team; they have a handful of fifth-year seniors, so they’re a good basketball team,” Payne said. “They’ve had a lot of success. They hardly ever lose in that building. They’re very well coached by one of my teammates in college and it’s going to be fun to be back. But we better be ready because it’ll be a battle.”
Sherrod taking care of ball
Buffs point guard Jaylyn Sherrod has significantly cut down on her turnovers this season, to the point that she currently ranks fifth nationally with a 4.13 assist-to-turnover ratio.
In 188 minutes played, Sherrod has just eight turnovers, while dishing a team-high 33 assists.
“Jay really was intentional about utilizing her time off last year to grow her understanding of the game,” Payne said of Sherrod, who missed the last 11 games of the 2020-21 season with a hip injury. “Some players get injured or have a big surgery and they just kind of chill. You know, chilling is not in Jaylyn’s makeup. She doesn’t do that, so she was really intentional about watching a lot of film, studying defensive film listening in on coaches’ huddles in the hallway before we go in the locker room.”
During her first two years, Sherrod racked up 189 assists, but also 137 turnovers. Last year, she had 37 assists and 37 turnovers.
“I think she just is a really smart player right now,” Payne said. “I mean, she knows what she can and can’t do. She knows what her teammates can and can’t do and she’s able to make good decisions in real time. Yeah, the assist to turnover ratio is pretty impressive.”
Backup Kindyll Wetta has a good ratio, as well, at 2.20 (22 assists, 10 turnovers).
CU Buffs women’s basketball at Southern Utah Thunderbirds
TIPOFF: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., at America First Event Center in Cedar City, Utah
BROADCAST: Online – ESPN Plus. Radio – 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 8-0 (0-0 Pac-12); Southern Utah 4-4 (2-0 Big Sky)
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 6th season (80-75; 181-188 career). Southern Utah – Tracy Sanders, 4th season (41-49)
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Sr. (4.0 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Frida Formann, 5-11, So. (7.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (13.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg; 1.5 bpg); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Jr. (9.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Jr. (7.3 ppg; 2.8 rpg; 4.1 apg, 2.4 spg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Sr. (7.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, Fr. (4.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.4 spg). Southern Utah – G Daylani Ballena, 5-8, So. (8.6 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.5 apg); G Cherita Daugherty, 5-10, Sr. (10.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.4 apg); F Darri Dotson, 6-1, Sr. (6.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg) G Madelyn Eaton, 5-8, Jr. (10.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg); C Lizzy Williamson, 6-5, So. (12.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg)
NOTES: CU hits the road after a six-game homestand, which concluded with a 78-53 win against Dixie State on Friday. … The Buffs are 2-0 on the road this season. … Hollingshed needs 22 points to pass Dian Hiemstra (1,376 points, 1981-84) for 15th on CU’s career scoring list. She comes into the game with 1,355 points. … CU is 4-0 all-time against SUU, with the last meeting coming in the 2014 WNIT. That WNIT game, a 79-68 CU win, wound up being Payne’s last game as SUU head coach, as she took the head coaching job at Santa Clara after the season. Three of CU’s wins in the series came against Payne. … Each of the previous four matchups came in Boulder, so this will be CU’s first visit to Cedar City. … Sanders played at St. Mary’s College from 1996-2000, earning All-WCC first-team honors three times. She was a teammate of Payne’s for three years. Sanders and Payne were both first-team all-conference players in 1999. … After an 0-4 start, SUU has won four in a row, including 87-65 against Idaho on Saturday. … SUU is 3-1 at home this season.