Just a week ago, the Colorado women’s basketball team was on a roll, enjoying the second-best start in program history and national attention.
On Friday, the 22nd-ranked Buffaloes (13-2, 2-2 Pac-12) will be in Tempe, Ariz., trying to rediscover their mojo after losing two consecutive games.
“We’re the same team that won 13 games in a row,” head coach JR Payne said. “We just have to make sure that we stay together and focus on the job at hand.”
CU hasn’t played poorly in the last two games, but a few miscues here and there cost them in a 60-52 loss to No. 2 Stanford and a 69-66 overtime loss at Oregon State on Monday.
“I think it just shows how important intangibles are, like boxing out, rebounding, securing the defensive board so we can have an extra possession and crashing the O-boards so we can have an extra possession,” senior Peanut Tuitele said. “It was very eye-opening for us because those were our weaknesses throughout those two games.”
Generally regarded as the toughest conference in the country, the Pac-12 offers no easy nights. There are plenty of opportunities for quality wins, but a losing skid can snowball in a hurry. That’s created a sense of urgency for the Buffs as they face Arizona State (8-5, 0-0) on Friday.
“I think there should be a tremendous amount of urgency to make sure that we’re all doing everything that we can to give ourselves the best chance to be successful,” Payne said.
In both losses, the Buffs struggled late.
They trailed for only 19 seconds during the first three quarters against Stanford but trailed for all but 19 seconds in the fourth as the Cardinal dominated that frame. Against Oregon State, the Buffs played catch-up most of the afternoon but led by five with 3 minutes to play in regulation and made just 1-of-13 shots the rest of the way.
“We’ve got to have a short memory,” Tuitele said. “These two past losses, we’re not taking it very lightly because we know we should have won those games if we defended better, if we made our shots. But, we’ve got to learn from it and we’ve got to move on because it’s Pac-12. We’re coming up to the Arizona (schools) and they’re just as good as any other opponent because any given night any Pac-12 team can win.
“This week’s practice is very important for us to get back on our feet and to come back together as a group.”
Fundamentally, there are aspects of the Buffs’ game that have to improve, such as their outside shooting and their late-game composure, but getting back on track is more of a mental challenge, Payne said.
“What are we made of?” Payne said. “That’s what we should be asking ourselves right now. What are we going to do about it? This has happened; now what? What’s our response going to be? I think I know our team well enough to know that our response should be to dig in and work, dig in and fight, dig in and get better.”
That certainly is Tuitele’s mindset as the Buffs prepare for a pivotal road trip to face the always tough Sun Devils and No. 10 Arizona.
“It’s extremely important,” Tuitele said. “It’s not a good feeling losing and especially losing back-to-back games that we know we should have won.
“The coaches are going to do their part and players are gonna do our part and make sure that we’re going to try to be successful this weekend.”
No. 22 CU Buffs women’s basketball at Arizona State Sun Devils
TIPOFF: Friday, 5 p.m., at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe, Ariz.
BROADCAST: TV – Pac-12 Network. Radio – 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 13-2 (2-2 Pac-12); Arizona State 8-5 (0-0)
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 6th season (85-77; 186-190 career). Arizona State – Charli Turner Thorne, 25th season (484-285; 524-325 career).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Sr. (4.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G Frida Formann, 5-11, So. (8.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (14.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg; 1.1 bpg); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Jr. (12.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Jr. (8.7 ppg; 2.9 rpg; 4.0 apg, 2.0 spg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Sr. (6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, Fr. (4.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.1 spg). ASU – G Ayzhiana Basallo, 5-5, Sr. (5.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg); F Mael Gilles, 6-1, Sr. (10.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.1 spg); G Taya Hanson, 5-10, Sr. (8.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.5 apg); G/F Jade Loville, 5-11, Sr. (15.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg); G Jaddan Simmons, 5-9, So. (10.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.9 spg).
NOTES: CU is looking to snap a two-game losing streak. … This is the second game of a four-game road swing for the Buffs. They are scheduled to face Arizona on Sunday. … Through Wednesday’s games, CU ranked No. 31 in the NET rankings, while ASU was at No. 42. … Hollingshed is the Pac-12’s active career leader in points (1,454) and rebounds (782). … CU ranks second in the Pac-12 in scoring defense (53.73) and ASU is third (55.46). … The Buffs lead the Pac-12 in steals (12.4 per game) and turnover margin (plus-7.07). … Formann has averaged 12.3 points in four Pac-12 games. … ASU leads the all-time series, 15-11, including 7-4 in Tempe. … After winning 11 of the first 13 meetings with ASU, the Buffs have lost 13 in a row to the Sun Devils. ASU won the only meeting last season, 51-47, in Tempe on Jan. 22, 2021. CU’s last win in the series came on Feb. 17, 2013. … ASU has not played since a 70-54 victory against Lipscomb on Dec. 30. The Sun Devils have had their first six Pac-12 games postponed. … After a 2-4 start, the Sun Devils are 6-1 in their last seven games. … Loville, a transfer from Boise State, was second in the Mountain West Conference in scoring last season (17.1 ppg). She is the daughter for former NFL running back Derek Loville, who helped the Denver Broncos win two Super Bowls in 1997-98. … Loville leads the Pac-12 in 3-point percentage (.489). … Basallo (San Jose State) and Gilles (Rutgers) are also transfers for the Sun Devils. Basallo was MWC newcomer of the year in 2019-20.