Whoever made the Pac-12 women's basketball schedule wasn't too kind to the Colorado Buffaloes.
The Buffs, however, have managed to stay afloat through one of the toughest schedules around. Eight games into a 10-game gauntlet to start the conference slate, the 22nd-ranked Buffaloes (154, 4-4 Pac-12) are still confident and hungry.
"Everybody still has confidence in themselves," senior point guard Chucky Jeffery said. "We come into practice every day ready to go, working hard. I don't think we have a set-back type of mentality. We just want to go out and we want to continue to win. For good teams, when you lose you bounce back and you come back mentally prepared and ready to go."
CU's first 10 games of Pac-12 play included two against No. 4 Stanford and two against No. 6 California. It also includes four consecutive road games, which arguably couldn't be a tougher four-game swing in the conference. The Buffs played at Cal on Jan. 25, at Stanford on Sunday and then visit No. 18 UCLA Friday night (9 p.m., Pac-12 Network) and Southern Cal on Sunday.
"We knew it was going to be a brutal first 10 games, and that's why we knew we had to be prepared coming in from the non-conference," Buffs head coach Linda Lappe said. "It's also going to be important that you're mentally tough. If we can stay together and we can keep a great outlook and a great attitude and keep having fun through January, then we're going to be in great position to do some great things in February and the beginning of March."
So far, the Buffs still have a great attitude. All four losses have come against Stanford and Cal, and the Buffs believe they are better now than they were even a week ago.
"We've had our best week of practice so far this year," Lappe said on Thursday. "I've been able to say that every week of the season because we keep getting better, we keep understanding that the stakes are high and that we are a good team.
"We have to look at playing Cal and Stanford twice as an opportunity to get better in each of those games, and I feel like we have. We learned a lot from last weekend and I think now we have to be ready to take that next step and really just maximize any opportunity that we get."
Lappe said the Buffs were limited offensively before facing the two Pac-12 juggernauts, but she's seen substantial growth.
"We've gotten better in our offense of moving the ball, taking what the defense gives us and being more versatile in how we're scoring," she said.
It will be critical for the Buffs to put their improvement on display this weekend.
UCLA (15-4, 6-2) is just as battle-tested as CU to this point. Three of UCLA's four losses have come against teams currently ranked in the top six -- No. 2 Notre Dame, Stanford and Cal. They've also got three wins against teams that were ranked at the time -- Oklahoma, Texas and St. John's.
The Bruins don't have anybody putting up impressive individual numbers, but they do have five players averaging between 9.1 and 11.7 points per game, and they have three players averaging at least 7.5 rebounds per game. Senior Markel Walker is probably the Bruins' top player, averaging 11.7 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3.2 steals.
Jeffery said the Buffs can't worry too much about the Bruins' individuals. Instead, they have to continue trying to get better as a team and doing what they can to pile up victories.
"We've got to make wins on the road; that's what good teams do," she said. "UCLA and USC are both great teams, they're playing well right now, so it's going to be a tough one, but I think we can do it.
"We know how big a win is, but there's no pressure; we just want to go out and play well against a good team."
CU's mental toughness will be tested, for sure, as it tries try to recover from back-to-back losses by taking on another ranked opponent on the road.
"It's going to be a big test of our character in how we respond," Jeffery said. "Hopefully we go out, we come focused and we bounce back."
Junior guard Ashley Wilson broke her nose against Stanford on Sunday and has been wearing a mask in practice. Wilson came out of the game briefly to stop the bleeding, but continued to play. She didn't realize until after the game that she had broken her nose. ... Sophomore forward Jen Reese got new, less cumbersome, goggles this week. She has been wearing goggles all season because of an eye injury suffered in last year's trip to Stanford, but Lappe said Reese is more comfortable in the new set she got this week.
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CU women's hoops preview
FRIDAY: The No. 22 Colorado Buffaloes (15-4, 4-4 Pac-12) visit the No. 18 UCLA Bruins (15-4, 6-2) in a 9 p.m. game at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.
BROADCAST: TV -- Pac-12 Network, with Anne Marie Anderson on play-by-play and Tammy Blackburn with color commentary. Radio -- KKZN (760 AM), with Mike Rice on play-by-play and Carol Callan providing color commentary.
STORY LINES: CU is on a two-game losing streak, having lost last weekend at No. 6 California and No. 4 Stanford. ... The Buffs have not lost three in a row this season. ... UCLA won both of its games last week, at home against Arizona and Arizona State. ... This is the first time in program history that the Buffs will play three consecutive true road games against ranked opponents. ... UCLA is 8-2 at home this season. ... CU has lost 19 consecutive road games against ranked opponents. The Buffs' last road win against a ranked team came on Dec. 9, 2007, at No. 20 Vanderbilt. ... UCLA's Markel Walker led the Pac-12 in rebounding last year, with 11.0 per game. This year, she's leading the conference in assists (5.5) and steals (3.2). She's also seventh in rebounding (7.9). ... UCLA's Alyssia Brewer is among the conference leaders in double-doubles, with six. Walker has four. ... During conference play, CU has the top scoring defense in the Pac-12, allowing just 52.1 points per game. ... CU's Lexy Kresl had a team-high 15 points in a 62-54 loss to UCLA on Jan. 29, 2012, in Boulder. ... CU's Ashley and Brittany Wilson and Alexus Atchley are all from the L.A. area.
KEY STAT: CU has not allowed an opponent to score 70 points this season. In fact, the Buffs have held 37 of their past 38 opponents under 70 points. UCLA, meanwhile, is second in the Pac-12 at 70.6 points per game. Bruins were held under 70 in three of their four losses.
COACHES: Linda Lappe is 54-34 in her third season at CU and 104-70 overall. Cori Close is 29-20 in her second season at UCLA and for her career.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado -- G Chucky Jeffery, 5-10, Sr. (13.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 4.2 apg, 2.4 spg); G Brittany Wilson, 5-7, Jr. (8.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.4 apg); G Lexy Kresl, 5-11, So. (5.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg); F Arielle Roberson, 6-1, Fr. (12.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg); C Rachel Hargis, 6-4, Jr. (5.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.2 bpg). UCLA -- G Thea Lemberger, 5-7, Jr. (9.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.9 apg); G Kari Korver, 5-9, Fr. (4.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg); G Mariah Williams, 5-4, Sr. (3.7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.3 apg); F Atonye Nyingifa, 5-11, Jr. (11.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.6 spg); F Alyssia Brewer, 6-3, Sr. (10.8 ppg, 7.9 rpg).
SERIES: UCLA leads 3-2, but the teams are tied 1-1 in Los Angeles. The Buffs won in their last trip to Pauley Pavilion, 79-48 on Dec. 8, 2001.
UP NEXT: CU will visit Southern California on Sunday at 11 a.m.