After each game, the Colorado women’s basketball coaching staff updates a board that shows how many points each player gave up in the previous game.
“Of course, you don’t want to give up the most points in the game,” junior guard Jaylyn Sherrod said. “It’s always a challenge, even to help each other get better and push each other to get better.
“I think we always perform better when we hear it coming from our teammates and our teammates are pushing us to be better altogether.”
Sherrod didn’t provide an update on the competition, but it’s clear the unbeaten Buffaloes (7-0) are taking it to heart as a whole.
On Friday, CU will host Dixie State (2-4) with hopes of continuing what has been a stellar season defensively.
Going into Thursday, the Buffs ranked 12th nationally in points allowed (49.3 per game) and 16th in steals per game (12.4). They were also 50th in field goal percentage defense (34.5 percent) and 53rd in forced turnovers (20.71 per game).
From game to game, CU isn’t sure what it’ll do offensively or how well it will rebound, but the defense has shown up every night. Every opponent has been held to 53 points or less.
“It’s the most consistent part of our game right now,” head coach JR Payne said. “Defense has been very consistent and I think part of it is that it takes no real skill. Length helps, but you don’t have to be 6-foot-3 to be a great defender. I think it’s buy-in. I think we just know that we’re good there and if we can be consistently good there that we can be consistently winning.”
Payne, now in her sixth year, has always strived to have a defensive-oriented program and the Buffs have been good on defense in the past. CU finished in the top half of the Pac-12 in several defensive categories last year, which was a key to the Buffs having their best season in several years.
This year, Payne said the Buffs’ defense is “next level” and that this is the best defensive team she’s had at CU.
“It’s not even close, I don’t think,” she said. “We’ve had some other good defensive players, but as an overall group, I think we can create more defensively than we ever have.”
Not that the Buffs are perfect on defense. The opposition has snagged way too many offensive rebounds for Payne’s liking, leading to second chances.
Overall, however, the Buffs have been stingy on defense and it starts with assistant coach Toriano Towns. From the time he got to CU six years ago, Towns has continued to demand strong defense from the players. It’s an expectation in practice and Payne said it helps having a veteran team that’s heard that message for years.
“The best teams are pretty veteran teams defensively,” she said. “A lot of it is understanding and executing a (scouting report), but also a lot of it is just toughness.”
The Buffs use phrases such as, “Tough kids don’t get screened,” and “Tough kids defend.”
“We want to be that team and I think we finally have enough veterans that have been here long enough to understand that that’s important,” Payne said. “We’ve also kind of taken the philosophy of if you don’t defend, you’re not going to play. We have enough depth to actually do that now.”
While it is a veteran roster leading the defense, freshman guard Kindyll Wetta has provided a significant spark, as well. Payne said Wetta is like a senior in terms of her basketball IQ.
Wetta, despite coming off the bench, leads the Buffs with 19 steals, while Sherrod has 17 and senior Mya Hollingshed has 11. Seven players are averaging at least one steal per game. In turn, the Buffs are averaging 22.1 points per game off of turnovers.
“It just makes the offense run a lot easier when you pick up 20-25 points just on easy steals and easy deflections,” Sherrod said. “I think Kindyll set the tone for us with that.”
In addition to steals, the Buffs are taking charges, getting their hands up and doing whatever is necessary to stop the opposition.
“Everybody’s just doing what they’re capable of doing and bringing what their talents can bring to the table and it’s just finally meshing for this team,” Sherrod said. “I think it’s pretty cool to see all the steals and all the charges. In the moment of course it’s hype, but even seeing it after the game and seeing the highlights and stuff … I’m just really proud of this team and what we’re doing.”
CU Buffs women’s basketball vs. Dixie State Trailblazers
TIPOFF: Friday, 7 p.m., at CU Events Center in Boulder
BROADCAST: Online – CUBuffs.com/WatchWBB. Radio – 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 7-0 (0-0 Pac-12); Dixie State 2-4 (0-0 WAC)
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 5th season (79-75; 180-188 career). Dixie State – JD Gustin, 6th season (53-65; 198-158 career).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Sr. (4.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Frida Formann, 5-11, So. (8.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (14.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg; 1.7 bpg); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Jr. (8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Jr. (7.4 ppg; 2.7 rpg; 4.3 apg, 2.4 spg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Sr. (6.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, Fr. (4.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.9 apg, 2.7 spg). Dixie State – G Breaunna Gillen, 5-9, Jr. (17.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 5.8 apg); F Emily Isaacson, 5-11, So., (13.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg); G Talia Sireni, 5-11, Jr. (7.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg); F Brooke Vance, 6-1, So. (4.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Macie Warren, 6-0, Fr. (6.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg); G Maddie Warren, 5-7, Fr. (11.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.2 apg)
NOTES: CU is wrapping up a six-game homestand with its first-ever meeting with Dixie State. … The Buffs have been off since a 67-51 win against Wisconsin on Sunday. … Under Payne, the Buffs are 53-5 against non-conference opponents, including 35-2 at home. … CU has won 22 consecutive home games against non-conference opponents. … This is Dixie State’s first full year in Division I. The Trailblazers, who were formerly in the Division II RMAC, officially gained D-I status and joined the Western Athletic Conference on July 1, 2020. Last year, they had five of eight non-conference games canceled and then canceled the remainder of their season on Jan. 5 because of COVID-19. They played just three games, going 1-2. … The Trailblazers have lost two in a row, including Wednesday at Utah State, 81-64. … This will be Dixie State’s second game against a Pac-12 foe this year. It lost at Oregon, 84-35, on Nov. 14. … Known as the Trailblazers, Dixie State’s mascot is Brooks the Bison.