CU women's hoops preview
THURSDAY: The UCLA Bruins (13-17, 7-11) vs. Colorado Buffaloes (16-13, 6-12) in an a 1 p.m. game at KeyArena, Seattle
TV — Pac-12 Network with Anne Marie Anderson on play-by-play and Tammy Blackburn providing color commentary and Jill Savage on the sidelines. Radio — KKZN (760 AM), with Mike Rice on play-by-play and Carol Callan providing color commentary.
STORYLINES: The Buffs haven't won a conference tournament since 1997. They are 2-2 in the conference tournament since joining the Pac-12 going 1-1 in each of the past two years. ... This is Colorado's first neutral-court game of the year. UCLA is 1-3 in neutral-court games this season. ... The Bruins enter the tournament having lost three of their final four games, including one in Boulder and are the worst shooting team in the conference, making just 38.5 percent of their field goal attempts. ... The No. 8 seed in the conference tournament is lowest in UCLA history and ends a streak of six consecutive seasons as a top-five seed. ... 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: The Buffs were the worst 3-point shooting team in the Pac-12 during conference play, making just 24.1 percent of their attempts from behind the arc.
COACHES: Linda Lappe is 80-50 in her fourth season at CU and 130-86 as a head coach. Cori Close is 53-41 in her third year at UCLA
Colorado — G Haley Smith, 6-0, Fr. (3.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.1 apg); G Ashely Wilson, 5-8, Sr., (7.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.8 apg); G Brittany Wilson, 5-7, Sr. (10.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg. 3.1 apg); F Arielle Roberson, 6-2, So. (12.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg); F Rachel Hargis, 6-4, Sr. (3.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg). UCLA — G Thea Lemberger, 5-7, Sr. (15.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.0 apg); G Nirra Fields, 5-9, So. (17.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.1 apg); C Luiana Livulo, 6-3, Jr. (4.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Antonye Nyingifa, 5-11, Sr. (18.4 ppg, 8.7 rpg); F Corinne Costa, 6-4, Jr. (6.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg).
SERIES: The teams have split eight games, but the Buffs swept two regular season games this season.
UP NEXT: If Colorado beats the Bruins, it will play top-seeded and No. 4-ranked Stanford at 1 p.m. Friday. If the Buffs lose to the Bruins, they will have to wait until March 17 to find out where and who they will play in the WNIT.
The Colorado women's basketball team must do something it hasn't accomplished in 17 years if it wants to play in the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year.
After a disastrous two months of Pac-12 Conference play in which CU fell out of the top-25 standings all the way to the ninth seed in this week's Pac-12 Tournament, the Buffs' only option is winning the conference tournament for the first time since 1997. That means winning four games in four days at KeyArena in Seattle.
CU's prospects of pulling it off are obviously slim considering it is without two players from the core group that started the season and it would have to beat top-seeded and No. 4-ranked Stanford along the way. The Buffs tip off the tournament Thursday at 1 p.m. against No. 9 seed UCLA, a team it beat handily just last week in Boulder.
"Everybody's backs are against the wall because it's one game or go home," CU senior guard Brittany Wilson said. "So I like the circumstances that we do have and I think this team is ready to fight and survive the weekend."
Coach Linda Lappe noted that the seniors and juniors on this season's team have a frame of reference to know that it can be done. Those players were at CU in 2012 when the CU men's team went on a four-game run in Los Angeles to capture its first Pac-12 Tournament title.
"We're about defense and we're about rebounding," Lappe said. "You have to stick to who you are as a team. So we won't be any different. For us to be successful, we've got to really defend and we have to be tough on the boards. When those two things happen, then our offense comes and we find ways to score.
"For us, it's just a narrow focus in doing what we can control."
Lappe said she sees this season's tournament as more wide-open than it has been in recent years. Lappe said she wouldn't be shocked if any of the top five seeds won. Those teams in order of seed are Stanford, California, Oregon State, Arizona State and USC.
Stanford finished the regular season at 28-2 overall and 17-1 in conference play. The next best conference record belonged to Cal and Oregon State with those teams each losing five times in conference.
Of course Lappe believes her team could pull off a huge surprise if it brings the right mindset to the tournament and plays its best basketball of the season.
"It takes an extreme amount of focus and hard work and discipline and playing really good," Lappe said of four wins in four days.
CU lost four of its final six games heading into the postseason, but its two victories in that span were the first back-to-back wins the program had produced since mid-December.
UCLA enters the tournament having lost three of its final four games and eight of its final 10. The Bruins have two of the top 11 scorers in the conference in forward Antonye Nyingifa and guard Nirra Fields, but they're also the worst shooting team in the Pac-12.
Both teams have played parts of this season without key members of their respective lineups and will continue to be short-handed in the tournament. The Buffs have been without starting guard Jasmine Sborov since early January. She suffered a broken foot and will not return this season. CU also lost junior forward Jen Reese to a broken bone in her shoulder last week in a win over the Bruins.
UCLA lost redshirt freshman Lauren Holiday to a head injury in the final two weeks of the regular season. The Bruins have been without Kari Korver and Kaci Swain all season. Both suffered knee injuries in October.
"I just think it's keeping our focus," Wilson said. "As long as we keep our focus, as we saw in Arizona and UCLA, we can be great. We can do great things. We can win four games."