Brooks: Weekend Goal For Lappe’s Buffs – End The Funk
BOULDER – Multiple choice: The Colorado women’s basketball team is:
A. In a funk.
B. Shooting the basketball like it has sharp edges.
C. Suffering on the boards – especially on the offensive end.
D. In desperate need of a turnaround weekend.
E. All of the above.
Jen Reese goes with A, but E would be accurate, too.
As a matter of full disclosure, I didn’t approach Reese on Wednesday afternoon with a one-question multiple-choice test. But she did finish my first question, which was, “What do you do to pull yourselves out of . . .”
Reese: “This funk?”
The junior forward didn’t hesitate, fumble, stumble or turn it over searching for the right word. Reese nailed it. Funk works. Funk fits.
The Buffs have lost six of their past eight games, plummeted completely out of the Top 25 after holding a high spot of No. 11 (AP) in week seven, and dug themselves a shallow grave (1-5, 11-6 overall) in the Pac-12 Conference. CU was the preseason No. 3 pick behind Stanford and California.
All is not lost, but if the freefall is to be halted it has to be soon.
“We have to make a change now or I don’t know when we’re going to do it,” Reese said. “We have to do it this weekend or I don’t even want to know what’s going to happen. We dug ourselves a pretty deep hole, but I think that these past few practices we’ve dug out a little bit. We have to keep digging out more and more each day. I feel like we can do that – I know we can.”
CU is at the Coors Events Center on Friday night (7 p.m.) against Arizona (4-13, 0-6) and back on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network) against No. 14 Arizona State (15-3, 4-2). In addition to being State Farm Day, Sunday’s game will honor the 40th season of CU women’s basketball, with over 50 former players and staff expected to attend.
This weekend offers a timely home stand for the Buffs to potentially get well before the midway point of the Pac-12 season. But to get well, says coach Linda Lappe, there’s a short list of intangibles as well as several easily identified stat sheet shortcomings that must be addressed.
Reese mentioned a lack of accountability among players, and Lappe went along with that.
Said Reese: “We have to hold each other accountable, hold ourselves accountable . . . we’ve talked about that. We’ve had a lot of team meetings, talking about what we can do better. I feel like we all need to get on the same track, get out of our own heads and start playing like a unit. We have to get on the same page, communicate as a whole. We can’t be running on top of each other in the offense – stuff like that.
“Overall, I think that’s the main thing we’ve talked about. I feel like everyone respects each other, we’ve just got to get that trust back. We trust each other, but it’s the trust that she’s going to make that layup, she’s going to make that jumper because she’s in her zone.”
In conversations with Lappe prior to last week’s pair of 10-point losses at unranked Washington State and Washington, her team’s mental toughness was a frequent topic. It surfaced again this week, in the context of free throw shooting, shooting in general and rebounding – all areas in which the Buffs have deteriorated during their recent funk. In Pac-12 play, CU is No. 11 at the foul line (63.5 percent), No. 9 in field goal percentage (37.1) and No. 11 in rebounding margin (minus-4.0). In scoring offense and defense, the Buffs are No. 10 (61.5 ppg) and No. 6 (68.2 ppg), respectively.
“Two things that have gone the wrong way for us are our free throw shooting, shooting percentage in general, and rebounding,” Lappe said. “Those are things we were doing early in the season that have kind of dropped off . . . especially when we’ve had droughts offensively, you need free throws to hold you over. And you need to be getting offensive rebounds when you’re missing shots to be able to hold you over until you get back on a roll again.
“To me, those are toughness (issues). We shoot free throws all the time. We don’t do anything different from when we’re shooting 80 percent as a team to when we’re shooting 60 percent as a team. It’s about a mentality and about a toughness, bearing down and understanding what the team needs and being confident that you’ve put in the work to be able to knock the next one down. And having a short memory.”
As for the slippage in rebounding in the Pac-12, Lappe pointed to “toughness and grit and determination. We’ve been in games when we’ve needed extra possessions and we haven’t been able to get them.”
Winning their first nine games and climbing to No. 11 nationally, the Buffs encountered their first ranked opponent – No. 7 Louisville – and lost 69-62. Pac-12 play began with a 55-45 loss at unranked Southern California, but the weekend was salvaged with a 61-59 win at UCLA, also unranked.
Home losses to No. 19 California (59-57) and No. 4 Stanford (87-77) launched a four-game losing streak that brings Lappe and the Buffs to this weekend. Her team’s most serious injury to date has been a foot fracture that likely will keep guard Jasmine Sborov sidelined for another month.
“Every weekend now and before was a big weekend,” Lappe said. “At this point, with some injuries we’ve had, we need some different players to step up. And at the same time I think that’s exciting. This is what you prepare for – or don’t prepare for – the first six months of the season. We think we have some players prepared to step in and play some valuable minutes with some of the injuries that we’ve had.”
A stretch like the Buffs have endured, she added, is unforeseen and unexpected. “Normally there’s some experience with it. What you don’t have experience with, you look at other similar experiences and how those teams have overcome things similar to what we’re going through. The biggest thing is to stay positive and not hang heads, to have great body language.
“This is a time when you really have to pick each other up. But at the same time, you understand there are things we have to get better at – and that’s the accountability piece of it. If someone needs to hold someone accountable, basically it doesn’t matter how it happens; we just need to do it. I think that’s the thing we’re beginning to understand. There are some things we need to start doing in practice that are going to lead to success on the court. And until we have success in those things in practice we can’t expect that to magically appear in games.”
It won’t be by a wave of the wand, but the skid can be halted. The sooner the better.