Back in November and December, Arielle Roberson seemed to have this whole college basketball thing figured out.
Turns out she had a lot more to learn, but the Colorado freshman has found her groove again as the 19th-ranked Buffaloes (22-5, 11-5 Pac-12) head into the final weekend of the regular season.
"She's been playing very aggressive, both on the offensive and defensive ends, but especially offensively," CU head coach Linda Lappe said. "That's probably where she was struggling the most when she slowed down in the midseason. She's just figuring out how she can best get into positions to score, how to move to the right spots. She's become much more versatile in how she's scoring."
Roberson, a 6-foot-1 forward from San Antonio, opened her career with a 16-point game. During non-conference play, she averaged 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and was named Pac-12 freshman of the week three times.
She wound up scoring double-digit points in each of her first 13 games (including the first two Pac-12 games) -- the longest streak in school history to start a career. She knew, however, that she would have to get better.
"I had known that the road had been too easy up until then and (the Pac-12) was going to be a big, big test," she said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself and I think that's where you get out of yourself and you just get uncomfortable and things don't work out for you."
Shortly after the Pac-12 games started, Roberson's struggles began. In a seven-game stretch from Jan. 8 to Feb. 1, she averaged 7.1 points and made just 29 percent of her shots.
"It was very frustrating," she said. "At times you don't want it to affect your confidence, but it's kind of lingering in there. I just never really let that go and it carried over from game to game to game."
Her older sister, Amber, who played volleyball at Texas, played a big role in helping Roberson get back on track.
"I think she told me what I didn't want to hear," Roberson said. "She snapped me back to reality. She pointed out the negative, but in the negative there were positives.
"Since she had been a previous college athlete herself, she gave me the confidence and the tools and just reminded me to bring my aggressiveness and focus in a little bit harder and better."
A move to the outside has helped, too. Roberson played more of a power forward role early in the season, but she's now playing more as a small forward. That has allowed her to play to her strengths: driving to the hoop and shooting outside jumpers.
"I would wander out anyway," Roberson said. "Since I'm already out there and what I like to do is slash and drive anyways, it just works out better and helps me get more confidence in myself. And I think my teammates give more confidence in me, as well."
Lappe has also praised Roberson for being more aggressive around the rim. She had a career-high 13 rebounds on Friday against Washington State, including eight offensive boards. She has 18 offensive rebounds in the last four games, leading to several put-backs.
"Now she's back to playing like we need her to," Lappe said.
Good thing, because the Buffs are going to need Roberson in the coming weeks. They close out the regular season Friday (at Oregon) and Sunday (at Oregon State) and then play in the Pac-12 Tournament next week. In three weeks, the Buffs figure to be in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"I think this is great timing," Roberson said. "I'm glad (the slump) happened to me then so I could pick it up now and go into postseason strong."
Point guard Chucky Jeffery, who injured her ankle Sunday against Washington, showed no signs of that injury Wednesday at practice. Lappe said Jeffery had a "very minor" ankle sprain. ... Guard Lexy Kresl did some limited work in practice as she recovers from a separated right shoulder. She was injured Feb. 17 at Arizona State. Lappe said Kresl is improving every day, but the Buffs aren't sure yet if she'll be ready to play this weekend.
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