All year, the Colorado women’s basketball team has set a goal of getting to the NCAA Tournament.
They’ve achieved that goal, but now hope to keep their focus on actually winning in the tournament.
CU (22-8), seeded No. 7 in the Greensboro Region, will face No. 10-seed Creighton (20-9) on Friday in Iowa City, Iowa, at 11:30 a.m. MDT (TV: ESPNews).
“I don’t think I will have to say much, but I will anyway just to make sure that the team understands,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “We’ve reached a goal to make it to the tournament, but we also want to make some noise in the tournament.
“I think the way that we approach everything, it’ll be loud and clear from the beginning. We worked all week (last week) without knowing who we were playing, but it was really more just focused on us: here are a few areas that I think we can really improve in. A few days of practice and we attacked that and but now it’s going to be all business.”
This is CU’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2013, but it’s been nearly two decades since the program last won a game in the tournament. In 2003, the Buffs reached the Sweet 16, but have lost their last three NCAA Tournament games.
“Our team does a great job of competing,” Payne said. “We’ll be fine. I’m not worried about that at all.”
CU has been led by its veterans throughout the season, including seniors Sila Finau, Mya Hollingshed, and Peanut Tuitele. That group has kept the Buffs focused each game, and junior guard Jaylyn Sherrod expects that to continue.
“That’s been our motto this whole season is unfinished business,” Sherrod said. “Getting to the tournament is a great accomplishment, but at the same time just getting there is not what we’re going for. We’re trying to get as far as we possibly can go and show, I guess, everybody who Colorado really is. I think this is a good way to put our name on the board nationally, and but at the same time, I just think it’s just going in focused and sticking to the goal that we’ve had all season, which is unfinished business.”
Despite having a veteran team, Payne expects the Buffs to battle some nerves as they get to the NCAA Tournament stage for the first time as a group.
“I would expect everyone to be a little bit nervous,” she said. “It’s the first time and it’s exciting. It’s all of those things. But our veterans have played in a lot of basketball games, and I expect them to be able to calm everybody down.”
Creighton hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2018, so it will be a new experience for many of its players, as well.
The Bluejays have four seniors, but their top three scorers – Emma Ronsiek, Lauren Jensen and Morgan Maly – are all sophomores.
“They’re ready to go and they’re a pretty veteran group, too,” Payne said. “They have a couple of key sophomores but they also have some players that have played a lot, too, in their career.”
Regardless of the experience level of the teams, Sherrod and the Buffs know that if they want their season to extend past Friday, they’ve got to show up and play well.
“That’s not what we’re going for (to lose),” Sherrod said. “Whoever is in our region, they’re there for a reason, as well. So there’s a reason there’s (356) D-I teams and only 68 make it to the big dance. You can’t overlook any opponent at this point in the season.”