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 University of Colorado Boulder’s Kindyll Wetta, right, get the rebound from Stanford’s Haley Jones  during the Pac-12 game in Boulder on January 14, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
University of Colorado Boulder’s Kindyll Wetta, right, get the rebound from Stanford’s Haley Jones during the Pac-12 game in Boulder on January 14, 2022. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Following a loss to Utah on Sunday, the Colorado women’s basketball team gathered for a meeting, looking to regain its edge.

“Our team chemistry, I feel like, is a little bit off and we just kind of talked through that a little bit and just tried to come up with different ways that we could try and regain the chemistry that we had going into the season,” freshman guard Kindyll Wetta said. “So we’ve done a few team get-togethers, just hanging out with each other.”

On Friday, the Buffaloes (14-5, 3-5 Pac-12) host Washington State (13-6, 5-3) in a pivotal game. That’s followed by a Sunday home date with Washington (5-9, 0-6).

Although still projected as an NCAA Tournament team, the Buffs have lost five of their last six games and dealt with adversity they didn’t face during their 13-0 start.

“When you’re on a 13-0 winning streak, you don’t think you’re ever going to lose,” Wetta said. “Then when you do finally lose, it’s very hard. Then losing multiple games after that, it’s even harder. We are going through tough adversity right now and every team has to go through that, but I know that we can make it through and that we’re going to come out better for it.”

This rough stretch has included two losses to top 10 teams (No. 2 Stanford and No. 8 Arizona) and two overtime losses on the road to good teams (Oregon State and Arizona State). After winning at Utah, another good team, in overtime on Friday, the Buffs lost to the Utes at home, 78-67, on Sunday. That was really the only game in the stretch where the Buffs didn’t play well.

“I definitely thought it was our worst game of the year – that and (a 58-53 win at Air Force on Nov. 14),” head coach JR Payne said. “Overall, we just didn’t perform. We didn’t play hard enough. We didn’t play tough enough. We didn’t execute a scout well enough. We just didn’t play well. Our energy was low. We looked tired. I just thought overall, it was just not a great day for us.”

That’s what prompted the team to gather and try to refocus on the primary goal the team set on Day 1: Win the day.

“(The games) will definitely be the true test, but just being in practice and being around the girls, I feel like the air is a little bit lighter,” Wetta said. “All of us want to win, so I think we’re just in a space now where we have refocused on our team goal of winning every game possible. I’m hoping that it’s gonna show these next two games.”

Payne said the Buffs have had a good week of practice. They’ve focused quite a bit on rebounding, which was a major issue Sunday. What they’re not focusing on is their position in the NET rankings or Pac-12 standings.

“My priorities are on making sure that we are doing everything in our capacity to handle our business,” Payne said. “I can’t control who we’re playing or where we’re playing them but I can control our execution and our attention to detail and our focus and our discipline. When we do that effectively and to the best of our ability, then the outcome will take care of itself.”

Payne knows the challenge of facing Washington State, a 2021 NCAA Tournament team with its key players back. The Cougars can be a prolific team on the perimeter and they’ve got talent in the paint, as well.

Payne is confident her team is up to the challenge, however, and she believes the Buffs have a sense of urgency to get back on a winning track.

“We know that we’re capable of playing better basketball than we’ve played in the past several weeks,” Payne said. “Although we’ve been in a lot of close games and been very competitive, it still hasn’t translated to playing our best basketball. I think we’re all very aware of that. … We know we’re capable of better.”

CU Buffs women’s basketball vs. Washington State Cougars

TIPOFF: Friday, 7 p.m., at CU Events Center in Boulder

BROADCAST: TV – Pac-12 Network. Radio – 630 AM

RECORDS: Colorado 14-5 (3-5 Pac-12); Washington State 13-6 (5-3 Pac-12)

COACHES: Colorado – JR Payne, 6th season (86-80; 187-193 career). WSU – Kamie Ethridge, 4th season (45-59; 128-103 career).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado – G Sila Finau, 5-9, Sr. (3.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Frida Formann, 5-11, So. (8.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.7 apg); F Mya Hollingshed, 6-3, Sr. (14.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg; 1.4 spg, 1.1 bpg); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Jr. (11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Jr. (7.9 ppg; 2.6 rpg; 3.7 apg, 1.9 spg); F Peanut Tuitele, 6-1, Sr. (6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, Fr. (4.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 3.2 apg, 2.4 spg). WSU – G Charlisse Leger-Walker, 5-10, So. (16.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 spg); G Krystal Leger-Walker, 5-9, Sr. (8.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.5 apg, 1.6 spg); F Ula Motuga, 6-1, Sr. (7.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg); C Bella Murekatete, 6-3, Jr. (9.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 1.5 spg); G Johanna Teder, 5-8, Jr. (10.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg); G Tara Wallack, 6-2, Fr. (4.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg).

NOTES: This is the second game of a three-game homestand for the Buffs, who lost against Utah, 78-67, on Sunday. Hollingshed had 28 points for the Buffs. … CU is 1-5 in its last six games, including two overtime losses. … The Buffs are 10-2 at home this season. … With a win, CU would be at 15-5, matching its best 20-game start since starting 15-5 in 2012-13. That was the last year the Buffs reached the NCAA Tournament. … Washington State leads the all-time series, 12-8, but the Buffs have a 6-3 advantage at home. The Buffs and Cougars split their two meetings last season, with the visiting team winning both games. … As of Thursday, CU was at No. 33 in the NET rankings, while Washington State is at No. 60. … The Cougars have won three straight games, including two in a row against rival Washington. … CU ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in rebounding margin (plus-0.53), while Washington State is 12th (minus-0.42). … The Cougars are last in the Pac-12 in shooting percentage (.383). … CU leads the Pac-12 in steals, at 12.05 per game. … Charlisse Leger-Walker is fourth in the Pac-12 in scoring (16.63 per game). … Last season, Ethridge led the Cougars to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 30 years. … Prior to coming to WSU, Ethridge coached Northern Colorado for four years, leading the Bears to the NCAA Tournament in 2018. … WSU was the only Pac-12 team that did not add a transfer last offseason.

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