CU women's hoops preview
The Colorado Buffaloes (19-14) at Texas-El Paso Miners (26-7) in an a 7 p.m. game at the Don Haskins Center
BROADCAST: TV — none. Radio — KKZN (760 AM), with Mike Rice on play-by-play and Carol Callan providing color commentary.
STORYLINES: CU advanced to the third round of the WNIT by beating TCU and Southern Utah. UTEP won its first two games in the tournament against Arkansas State and Saint Mary's. ... UTEP is 19-2 at home this season and finished third in Conference USA. ... The Miners feature the second highest scoring offense in Conference USA at 77.8 points per game and they have won 13 of their past 16 contests. ... The Buffs blocked 14 shots against Southern Utah. ... CU has won two games in a row for only the second time since December. ... CU is 3-7 on an opponent's home court in the postseason.
KEY STAT: UTEP plays an aggressive pressure defense and averages nearly 10 steals a game. The Buffs will have to keep their turnovers down. They are averaging 23.5 turnovers in two WNIT games
COACHES: Linda Lappe is 83-51 in her fourth season at CU and 133-87 as a head coach. Keitha Adams is 210-154 in her 13th season at UTEP.
Colorado — G Haley Smith, 6-0, Fr. (3.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.1 apg); G Ashley Wilson, 5-8, Sr., (7.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.9 apg); G Brittany Wilson, 5-7, Sr. (10.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg. 2.9 apg); F Arielle Roberson, 6-2, So. (12.3 ppg, 8.4 rpg); F Rachel Hargis, 6-4, Sr. (3.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg). UTEP — G Cameasha Turner, 5-9, So. (5.2 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.7 apg); G Kelli Willingham, 5-6, Sr. (7.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G Chrishauna Parker, 5-10, Jr. (7.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3.0 apg); F Kayla Thornton, 6-1, Sr. (20.1 ppg, 10.2 rpg); C Kristine Vitola, 6-4, Sr. (10.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg).
SERIES: CU leads 5-0. This is the first meeting in more than 31 years. These teams last played Nov. 19, 1982. CU hasn't played at UTEP since Feb. 3, 1978.
UP NEXT: The winner will advance to the quarterfinals to play Washington either Sunday or Monday at site and time to be determined.
The Colorado women's basketball team will try to do something a lot of teams struggle to do Friday night in a WNIT third-round game at Texas-El Paso.
It takes a focused group to go on the road and win on an opponent's home court in the postseason. It's something previous CU teams have done only three times.
CU won its first two games in the tournament over TCU and Southern Utah at home in the Coors Events Center. This is the first time the Buffs have played on the road since the Pac-12 regular season ended. CU is 6-7 in road games this season.
The Buffs haven't played at UTEP since 1978. They will encounter perhaps the most hostile environment of the season or at least since playing at Louisville back in mid-December. The Miners have been drawing about 4,600 fans to this point in the postseason.
"We actually really like playing on the road," CU point guard Lexy Kresl said. "I think it's going to be a fun experience for us. The coaches were talking about it and in order to win the WNIT, you have to get a few good wins on the road. So we're excited to start with UTEP."
Colorado has played the entire postseason without one of its top two scorers. Forward Jen Reese suffered a broken bone in her shoulder at the end of the regular season. Reese being out has forced more on the shoulders of leading scorer Arielle Roberson, who has responded about as well as coaches could have asked her to.
In four postseason games, Roberson is averaging 56.3 percent shooting and a double-double in points (11.8) and rebounds (10). She is also coming off a career best five blocked shots in the win over Southern Utah.
Assistant coach Jonas Chatterton said Roberson has done a better job of being patient in the postseason. For instance, she didn't even score her first points in the win over Southern Utah until hitting a 3-pointer early in the second half. She still ended up leading CU in scoring in the game.
"She has done a much better job of slowing the game down for her and picking her spots to go rather than trying to make things happen and fast," Chatterton said. "When she does that, she's pretty effective."
Chatterton said sometimes Roberson's competitive spirit gets the best of her and she tries to do too much. Controlling that has been a season-long conversation between coach and player.
"That's been the story of my season this year is not going too fast," Roberson said. "Sometimes I do get ahead of myself. He keeps reminding me to slow down and take my time and that really helps me to see the defense and see my team."
While Roberson has been good in the postseason, the Buffs have been sloppy when it comes to ball handling. They are averaging 23.5 turnovers a game in the WNIT and they will encounter a UTEP team Friday that likes to pressure opponents and forced them into mistakes. If CU doesn't get a handle on its turnovers, this could be where the season ends.
The Buffs are also going to see one of the nation's best in UTEP forward Kayla Thornton, who averages 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. At 6-foot-1, Thornton is similar to Roberson with an ability to knock down perimeter shots and score in the post.
"I think we all want to pretty much win this championship," Roberson said. "We want to have the season ending how we expected it to with some type of championship win. I think it's also great that we can continue playing with our seniors. I know they don't want to stop playing and we don't want to stop playing for them."