CU women's hoops preview

FRIDAY: The UCLA Bruins (12-16, 6-10) at Colorado Buffaloes (15-12, 5-11) in an 6 p.m. game at Coors Events Center

BROADCAST:

TV — Pac-12 Network with Anne Marie Anderson on play-by-play and Julie Rousseau providing color commentary. Radio — KKZN (760 AM), with Mike Rice on play-by-play and Carol Callan providing color commentary.

STORYLINES: This is the 1,200th game in the history of CU women's basketball. ... CU is coming off its biggest come-from-behind win in history. It overcame a 20-point deficit to win at Arizona last week. ... The Buffs appear to have regained their defensive focus allowing fewer than 60 points to their past two opponents after giving up at least 75 in four straight. ... Eleven of the Buffs' 12 losses are by 10 points or less. ... Forward Arielle Roberson has made 49 percent of her shots over the past five games. ... CU hopes to have senior guard Brittany Wilson back after she missed two games with a concussion. ... The Bruins have lost four of the past five games. ... UCLA leads the Pac-12 in turnover margin +2.9. ...UCLA assistant Jenny (Roulier) Huth played at CU with Buffs coach Linda Lappe (1998-2002) and scored 1,399 points as a Buff.

KEY STAT: UCLA is last in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage making just 38.6 percent of its shots.

COACHES: Linda Lappe is 79-49 in her fourth season at CU and 129-85 as a head coach. Cori Close is 52-40 in her third year at UCLA

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Colorado — G Haley Smith, 6-0, Fr. (2.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.2 apg); G Ashely Wilson, 5-8, Sr., (6.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.8 apg); C Rachel Hargis, 6-4, Sr. (3.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg.); F Arielle Roberson, 6-2, So. (12.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg); F Jen Reese, 6-2, Jr. (12.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg). UCLA — G Thea Lemberger, 5-7, Sr. (15.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.0 apg); G Nirra Fields, 5-9, So. (17.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.1 apg); C Luiana Livulo, 6-3, Jr. (4.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Antonye Nyingifa, 5-11, Sr. (18.7 ppg, 8.8 rpg); F Corinne Costa, 6-4, Jr. (6.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg).

SERIES: UCLA leads 4-3, but the Buffs won the previous meeting this season 61-59.

UP NEXT: The Buffs close out the regular season at home Sunday at noon against USC.

Coach Linda Lappe took over the women's basketball program at Colorado nearly four years ago hoping to transform it into a regular member of the top 25 and an annual conference title contender as it was when she was a Buff.

CU has taken some big steps toward accomplishing those goals in the intervening four seasons, despite the way the team has fallen off this season. Lappe credits the three seniors on this season's team — center Rachel Hargis and twin sisters Ashley and Brittany Wilson — as the backbone of that effort over the past four seasons.

The seniors will play their final regular season home games Friday and Sunday at the Coors Events Center against UCLA and USC, respectively.

The Wilsons were recruited by Lappe's predecessor, Kathy McConnell-Miller and Hargis was Lappe's first recruit. This is the first senior class Lappe has seen go through her program from uncertain freshmen to been-there-done-that seniors.

"This senior group is really special because we came in at the same time," Lappe said. "They came in at the same time as our staff. ... All three have really helped transform our program. They have done a lot so far in four years. I know this year has been a little bit disappointing for all of us, but just in terms of where they got the program and where they're leaving the program, it is significantly in better hands as we move forward.

"Just their overall passion, their hard work, the toughness that all three of those guys play with has helped our program take that next step. We're not consistently where we want to be, but they're a huge part of getting us to where we are."

The Buffs are a team that was once on the cusp of a top-10 national ranking in December only to fall to ninth place in the Pac-12 Conference entering Friday night's game against the Bruins. CU has been inconsistent at best and sloppy at worst over the past two-plus months since topping out at No. 11 in the polls.

Injuries have a taken a toll this season and led to chemistry issues with some players being called into bigger roles they might not have been ready to handle. Lappe always has been comfortable leaning on her seniors even though Hargis and the Wilsons haven't always been in the starting lineup.

Ashley Wilson, the team's captain, has attacked every bit of playing time she has earned and it has led to her becoming a problem for opponents in Pac-12 play.

Since moving into the starting lineup seven games ago, she has averaged 9.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists. She played a pivotal role in leading the Buffs back from a 20-point deficit last week at Arizona to steal an overtime victory from the Wildcats.

"I have no choice," Wilson said of her enthusiastic and aggressive approach since returning from a shoulder injury. "These are games, at this point, I can't get back. There is no going into the offseason and wishing you could get games back. I pretty much go into every game with the mindset of just leave your heart on the floor. If I can do that every single night, then I'll be proud."

At 15-12 overall and 5-11 in the Pac-12, the Buffs' hopes of earning an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament are long gone. They know the only way to get to the tournament for a second straight season is to win the Pac-12 Tournament next week in Seattle.

The idea of that happening seems farfetched, considering CU hasn't been able to win two consecutive games since mid-December and would need to win four to get the job done. Still, they believe they can finally get on a roll and it starts this weekend by wrapping up the regular season at home with a pair of victories.

"In my mind, it definitely is," Hargis said when asked if she believes the team's goal of a Pac-12 title is still attainable. "I know other people would probably say that's crazy. I feel like we definitely still have a chance and none of us feel like it's impossible. We're all still thinking positively."

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Kyle Ringo at ringok@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/kyleringo.