The preparation is the same, but those in the Colorado women’s basketball program know that Friday isn’t just another game.
No. 22 Colorado (13-0, 2-0 Pac-12) is the only undefeated team in all of Division I college basketball – 714 teams between men and women – and the Buffaloes will welcome defending national champion and current No. 2 Stanford (11-3, 2-0) to Boulder.
“We haven’t shied away from any of it,” CU head coach JR Payne said of the attention showered upon her team this week. “There’s a lot of potential distractions, but it is unbelievably important that we don’t allow them to be distractions. You want to be talked about, you want to have people coming to the game and things like that, but we have to be laser-focused on Stanford because if it’s anything short of that you don’t give yourself a chance to be successful.”
CU, which jumped into the national rankings on Monday, will be entering uncharted waters.
Friday’s game will be the first matchup of Top 25 teams in Boulder since No. 4 Stanford knocked off No. 17 Colorado on Jan. 12, 2014.
It’s been nine years since CU played in the NCAA Tournament or made much noise in the Pac-12. Since then, the Buffs have been fighting for relevance. This week, they’ve been recognized nationally, they’re projected as an NCAA Tournament team and have an opportunity to further enhance their postseason resume by beating the Cardinal.
“You always dream about going to college and playing for a top program and going to the big dance and having all those experiences that you see on TV,” CU senior Mya Hollingshed said. “I definitely wanted to have those when I came to college. We like to see our hard work pay off and over my five years, I can say our hard work is finally paying off. There’s people that have been here before that have paved the way and helped us get here honestly.”
Hollingshed credited many of the teammates she played with early in her CU career for laying a foundation to get the program to where it is now. But, it’s this year’s team that is enjoying success to this point.
“I think we’re actually buying into what we’ve been saying for all these years and we actually have a group of people that just want to win and look forward to coming to practice every day trying to achieve those things, those experiences that we see on TV,” she said.
On Friday night, it’ll be up to the Buffs to make the most of the experience.
While CU is eager for the opportunity and hoping for a big crowd, Stanford has been here before. Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer is the winningest coach in women’s college basketball history and Payne has no doubt Stanford will be prepared – especially because of what happened in Stanford’s last visit to Boulder, when the unranked Buffs upset the then-No. 1 and eventual national champs, 77-72 in overtime, on Jan. 17, 2021.
“I think we could be 0-13 and they would still come in with that type of focus just based on what happened last year,” Payne said of the Cardinal. “I see Stanford as a team that’s always extremely disciplined. They execute their scout they run their stuff with precision. I see them as a team that is always like that anyway, but it’ll be even more this year I know.”
That’s why, even throughout all the hype of this game, CU is intent on treating it like every other game it has played this season.
“Just trying to maintain and do things that we know we’re good at and just continue to play our brand of basketball I think is the most important (factor),” Hollingshed said. “It’s going to be a lot of excitement around the game, but I think we’re really focused and just trying to tune out the noise and focus on the game at hand.”
The game at hand is one that is big for the Buffs, but it’s also just one step along the journey to bigger goals.
“Our goals are very different than just beating Stanford on Friday night,” Payne said. “We want to win long term. We want to win consistently. We want to be in the NCAA Tournament. There’s so many other things that will be developed in the next two months … and there’s a whole lot of games to be played in between. So I think it’s a bigger deal for other people than it is for us, but I certainly know that both teams will be very focused on the job at hand.”
CU has rescheduled its game at Oregon State. The Buffs were originally slated to play the Beavers in Corvallis, Ore., on Dec. 31, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues with the Buffs. That game will now take place on Monday at 3 p.m. MT. … CU has two other postponed games, at Oregon and home against California, that have not been rescheduled.
No. 22 CU Buffs women’s basketball vs. No. 2 Stanford Cardinal
TIPOFF: Friday, 7 p.m., at CU Events Center in Boulder
BROADCAST: TV – Pac-12 Network. Radio – 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 13-0 (2-0 Pac-12); Stanford 11-3 (2-0 Pac-12)
COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 6th season (85-75; 186-188 career). Stanford – Tara VanDerveer, 36th season (984-207; 1,136-258 career).
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Sr. (5.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G Frida Formann, 5-11, So. (8.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (14.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg; 1.2 bpg); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Jr. (11.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Jr. (8.8 ppg; 2.9 rpg; 4.4 apg, 1.9 spg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Sr. (6.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, Fr. (4.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.2 spg). Stanford – F Francesca Belibi, 6-1, Jr. (7.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Cameron Brink, 6-4, So. (12.6 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg); G Lacie Hull, 6-1, Sr. (4.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.4 apg); G Lexie Hull, 6-1, Sr. (11.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 2.3 spg); G Haley Jones, 6-1, Jr. (12.5 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.6 apg); G Hannah Jump, 6-0, Jr. (10.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg).
NOTES: The Buffs continue what is a four-game homestand to start Pac-12 play. CU is coming off a 71-63 win against UCLA on Sunday. … The Buffs are 2-0 to start conference play for the first time since the 2006-07 season when they were in the Big 12. They haven’t started 3-0 since a perfect, 14-0 run through the Big Eight in 1994-95. … This is just the second 13-0 start in CU history. The Buffs started 15-0 in 1992-93. … CU snapped a 16-game losing streak to Stanford with a 77-72 overtime win in Boulder on Jan. 17, 2021. … The Cardinal won the second matchup last year, 62-54, on Feb. 5, 2021, at Stanford. … Stanford is 3-3 against ranked opponents this season. This will be CU’s first game against a ranked opponent. … After a 65-61 loss at No. 1 South Carolina on Dec. 21, the Cardinal have won three in a row.