After a stellar start to the season, the Colorado women’s basketball team had lost that winning feeling.
When the Buffaloes finally found it on Friday night in Salt Lake City, there was a wave of emotion in the locker room.
“Amazing,” senior Peanut Tuitele said after a 66-62 overtime win against Utah. “I walked in the locker room and the energy was ecstatic and I was like, ‘That was the energy we’ve been missing!’ Everyone can’t stop smiling because it’s been a tough four-game stretch for us, so I’m very excited. We’re incredibly proud and I think it is going to boost our confidence back up.”
The Buffs (14-4, 3-4 Pac-12) will need that confidence on Sunday when Utah (10-7, 1-4) comes to Boulder looking for revenge. In beating the Utes on Friday, CU relieved some pressure that had built up during a four-game losing streak, but there’s no time to dwell on that victory.
“Like coach (JR Payne) always says, ‘Short term memory,’” Tuitele said. “We’re gonna go back to the film room and we’re gonna talk about what we did well, what we didn’t do well, and go in and trust in the coaches’ game plan for Sunday.”
CU had to rally in the fourth quarter to get the win and Payne is well aware of the danger Utah presents.
Despite its record, Utah is No. 23 in the NET rankings – CU moved up to No. 32 with the win – and the Utes have made life difficult for quality opponents all season.
“I think that (Utah head coach Lynne Roberts) is a really great coach,” Payne said. “I always think that she does a great job the second time she plays a team. I think they make good adjustments and this game will be no different.”
Since coming to CU, Payne is 5-1 against Roberts’ Utah teams in the first meeting of a season, but 0-4 in the second meeting (there was no second game between the two last season).
One advantage for CU could be the comforts of home. The Buffs have played four straight on the road since their last game in Boulder on Jan. 14.
“Oh my! So excited,” Tuitele said of playing at home. “I feel like we haven’t been at the CU Events Center in a minute. It’s gonna be really nice to play in front of the Buff Nation, back at home, get our groove back. It’ll be really nice.”
Sunday’s game will also be big for the Buffs’ postseason resume.
Sitting at No. 32 in the NET rankings, which are a tool used in determining the NCAA Tournament bracket, the Buffs need to pile up as many quality wins as possible.
Friday was CU’s first “Quadrant 1” win of the season and the Buffs could get another on Sunday. A Quadrant 1 win is a home victory against teams ranked 1-30 or a road win against those ranked 1-75.
The Buffs are now 1-4 in Quad 1 games, 4-0 in Quad 2 and a combined 9-0 in Quad 3 and Quad 4 games.
“Really big, really important,” Payne said of Friday’s win. “So many great teams in our conference and I think Utah is a really good team. I think they’re a dark horse in this league. They have some of the most talented young players in the conference. For us to be able to come here and do what we did down the stretch speaks volumes to what we’re capable of doing.”
CU Buffs women’s basketball vs. Utah Utes
TIPOFF: Sunday, Noon MST, at CU Events Center in Boulder
BROADCAST: TV – Pac-12 Network. Radio – 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 14-4 (3-4 Pac-12); Utah 10-7 (1-4 Pac-12)
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 6th season (86-79; 187-192 career). Utah – Lynne Roberts, 7th season (101-94; 322-269 career)
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Sr. (3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg); G Frida Formann, 5-11, So. (8.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.8 apg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (13.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg; 1.4 spg, 1.1 bpg); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Jr. (11.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Jr. (8.2 ppg; 2.7 rpg; 3.7 apg, 1.9 spg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Sr. (6.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, Fr. (4.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.1 apg, 2.3 spg). Utah – G Dru Gylten, 5-11, Sr. (6.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.4 spg); F Jenna Johnson, 6-2, Fr. (11.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg); G Gianna Kneepkens, 5-11, Fr. (11.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Brynna Maxwell, 6-0, Jr. (12.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg); F Peyton McFarland, 6-4, So. (6.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg); G Kennady McQueen, 5-10, So. (8.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg); F Dasia Young, 5-11, Jr. (7.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.8 apg).
NOTES: CU returns home after a four-game road swing. … The Buffs are seeking their first two-game regular season sweep of Utah since the 2014-15 season. … In the previous six seasons, the Buffs have had just four two-game regular season sweeps of a conference foe (California twice, Washington twice). … The Buffs are seeking their third consecutive win against the Utes. CU leads the all-time series, 20-19, including 10-7 in Boulder. … On Friday, Maxwell, the Utes’ leading scorer each of the last three seasons, was held scoreless for just the second time in her career. … Starting the past two games, Buffs’ sophomore guard Tameiya Sadler has averaged 12.0 points and 6.5 rebounds. Prior to that, she was averaging 3.8 points and 1.8 rebounds. … In Friday’s game, Utah hit a season-low 33.3 percent of its shots. … CU is 10-1 at home, while Utah is 2-3 on the road. … Hollingshed needs 13 points to reach 1,500 for her career, a milestone reached by only 12 Buffs.