Buffs Looking For Turnaround After 0-2 Pac-12 Start
BOULDER - The Colorado women's basketball team started the season with 11 straight non-conference wins, in the process defeating then-No. 8 Louisville to become ranked for the first time since 2008.
But in their first weekend of Pac-12 Conference play, the No. 20/25 Buffaloes were in for a rude awakening.
In its first conference games of the season, CU fell at home to both No. 4/3 Stanford and No. 7 California to kick off conference play 0-2.
The Buffs dropped a 57-40 loss to the Cardinal on Friday with a rocky first half, and though they kept pace with the Golden Bears for most of Sunday's matchup, their 34 rebounds compared to Cal's ultimately 43 cost them the game. Particularly troubling for CU was thwarting any chance for a late comeback by not boxing out on missed free throws in the final seconds of Sunday's game.
But head coach Linda Lappe and her players can't afford to dwell on the losses. The team has just one day to recover from a tough weekend before taking on the University of Utah on Tuesday, also at home. The rest of January will be no easier, with Arizona State and Arizona coming up quickly before rematches against Stanford and Cal on the road.
"If you want to be considered an elite program, you've got to learn how to (bounce back)," said redshirt freshman forward Arielle Roberson, who scored 11 against Cal and 10 against Stanford. "We've just got to regroup (Monday) in practice and take the focus off these last two games ... just focus on ourselves and not on the past."
And though it may not be a great feeling right now, there could be some benefits to facing such tough competition at the very beginning of conference play.
"Our confidence isn't lost, and I think these games are great tests for the rest of the conference," Roberson said. "We can only grow and learn from it."
Lappe agreed: "I think playing the best two teams early is going to make us better. We were better (Sunday) than we were against Stanford, and we were better in the second half of the Stanford game than we were in the first half. Every single opportunity that we have to play quality teams is going to help our team get better."
The Buffs did improve as they gained focus throughout the weekend's games. After starting slow against Stanford and falling behind 16 by halftime, the Buffs played the Cardinal even in the second half. The team also improved in free throws from 47.4 percent against the Cardinal to 70 percent against Cal, and in three-pointers from 8.3 to 36.4 percent.
Senior guard Chucky Jeffery, Colorado's leading scorer and rebounder for the weekend, was still frustrated with the Buffs' ability to compete against the Golden Bears in all areas except for rebounding.
"Like coach said, we can't do everything well except something," Jeffery said. "You have to do everything well when you play a top-10 team in the country, that's just how it is."
Regardless of the competition, the Buffs are not making excuses for their poor free throws against Stanford or their rebounding struggles against Cal.
"What it comes down to is just a lot of effort," Roberson said. "We've just got to find a way."
For sophomore guard Lexy Kresl, the weekend served as a lesson in fast-paced play and an early indicator of the effort required to compete in the Pac-12.
"It just kind of sets the tone for how hard we need to play so we don't stoop down to our competition against other teams," Kresl said. "We can't have a stagnant offense ... we just have to keep moving and keep trying to push the ball, and just make smart decisions."
At the start of the season, the Buffs set a goal to be "uncommon," to make a name for themselves and do something CU has not done in a long time. Their non-conference performance certainly shows that potential - but they'll still have to prove it in the Pac-12.
Conference play continues with back-to-back games against Utah, the first on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Coors Events Center, then on Sunday at 3 p.m. MST in Salt Lake City in the Buffs' first Pac-12 road game of the season.