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Women’s basketball: 25th-ranked Colorado Buffs hoping for larger crowds as momentum builds

CU head women's basketball coach JR Payne, middle, sets her team up for play during a timeout against UCLA on Friday night in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
CU head women’s basketball coach JR Payne, middle, sets her team up for play during a timeout against UCLA on Friday night in Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Colorado fans are starting to take notice of the women’s basketball team.

Attendance for CU’s 73-70 overtime win against No. 8 UCLA on Friday wasn’t a big number, but at 2,227 it was the largest home crowd of the season for the 25th-ranked Buffaloes.

Head coach JR Payne and the players noticed not only the larger crowd, but the energy generated by those in the stands.

“First of all, thanks to a huge crowd that came out tonight,” Payne said at the start of her postgame press conference on Friday. “Hopefully we’ll continue to grow that.”

On Sunday, the Buffs (16-4, 7-2) will face an unranked but very good USC (15-5, 5-4) squad as they look to keep momentum going.

After beating then-No. 8 Utah, then-No. 14 Arizona and current No. 8 UCLA in the last three home games, Payne hopes more fans start catching on that they’ll get their money’s worth when showing up to the watch the Buffs.

“Yeah, we just need to continue to get the word out,” Payne said. “People that come and watch us play love watching us play. It is fun basketball, it is good basketball.”

While Friday’s attendance was a season high at home, six of the Buffs’ 11 road or neutral site games have featured larger crowds. CU played in front of 7,509 fans at Tennessee on Nov. 25 and 4,122 fans last Sunday at Stanford.

“We just need to continue to get the word out and get more and more people here because the more people come, the more energy in the building and it just is going to keep snowballing in a great direction,” Payne said.

January 27: Buffaloes' Kindyll Wetta drives past UCLA Bruins' Kiki Rice in Boulder on Jan. 27, 2023.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
January 27: Buffaloes’ Kindyll Wetta drives past UCLA Bruins’ Kiki Rice in Boulder on Jan. 27, 2023.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Dynamic duo

They didn’t come into college with the same level of hype as some of their peers and they don’t put up the same type of numbers as others, but CU’s Jaylyn Sherrod and Kindyll Wetta have formed a remarkable duo at point guard.

“We’re in a conference with a lot of really good guards and I would take those two over any point guard in our conference,” Payne said Friday.

On Friday, Wetta finished with 13 points — including the game-winning 3-pointer — and six assists, while Sherrod racked up 20 points and six assists. They also locked down on UCLA’s fantastic point guard duo of Charisma Osborne and Kiki Rice.

Osborne and Rice came into the game scoring a combined 28.9 points per game on 42.7% shooting. Against the Buffs, they combined for 16 points on 16.0% (4-of-25) shooting).

“Jaylyn, I think she would say the same thing, but we love playing defense and we love causing chaos at the top of the zone, in man, wherever it is,” Wetta said of going up against top guards. “And I think we push each other a lot in practice and that translates over to the game.”

Osborne and Rice form one of the top duos in the conference. Osborne was rated as the No. 22 recruit in the country — and No. 5 point guard — by HoopGurlz in 2019 and has been first-team All-Pac-12 the last two years. Rice was rated by HoopGurlz as the No. 2 overall recruit — and the top guard — in the 2022 class.

CU will face plenty of quality guards the rest of the season, including USC’s Destiny Littleton on Sunday and Oregon’s trio of Endyia Rogers, Te-Hina Paopao and Chance Gray (the No. 2 point guard recruit in 2022) on Friday.

Payne will always like her chances with Sherrod and Wetta.

“They’re really tough. They’re resilient. They like to defend,” Payne said. “They’re confident offensively. They’re unselfish. They lead. … I’m very, very proud that they’re Buffs.”

No. 25 CU Buffs women’s basketball vs. USC Trojans

TIPOFF: Sunday, noon MT, at CU Events Center.

TV/RADIO: TV — Pac-12 Network. Radio — KHOW 630 AM

RECORDS: Colorado 16-4, 7-2 Pac-12; USC 15-5, 5-4 Pac-12.

COACHES: Colorado — JR Payne, 7th season (110-88; 211-201 career); USC — Lindsay Gottlieb, 2nd season (27-21; 262-149 career).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G Frida Formann, 5-11, Jr. (11.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 39.8% 3-point, 93.8% FT); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Sr. (14.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.6 spg, 44.3% 3-point); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Sr. (10.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.2 apg, 2.3 spg, 51.9% 3-point); C Aaronette Vonleh, 6-3, So. (11.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 58.3% FG); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, So. (6.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.5 spg). USC — G/F Okako Adika, 6-4, Sr. (7.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 82.9% FT); G Destiny Littleton, 5-9, Sr. (12.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.0 apg, 89.0% FT); G/F Rayah Marshall, 6-4, So. (13.8 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.7 spg, 3.1 bpg); F Kadi Sissoko, 6-2, Sr. (15.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 55.4% FG); G Kayla Williams, 5-7, Jr. (5.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.0 spg).

NOTES: CU has won eight of its last nine games overall, including Friday’s 73-70 overtime upset of No. 8 UCLA. … The Buffs are seeking a third consecutive weekend sweep of the Los Angeles schools, having swept both home and away sets last season. … The Buffs have won 12 straight at home (9-0 this year), the longest home winning streak since 12 in a row in 2001-02 (last nine) and 2002-03 (first three). CU hasn’t won as many as 13 in a row at home since a 16-game winning streak was snapped in November of 1995. … The Buffs are 11-15 all-time against USC, including 7-5 at home. CU has won the last three meetings with the Trojans, however. … USC is 5-4 away from home, including an 83-73 loss at No. 9 Utah on Friday. … The Trojans had won four straight before Friday’s loss. … As of Saturday, CU was No. 21 in the NET rankings, while USC was at No. 31.