Scheduling Twist Matches Buffs, Utes Back-To-Back
BOULDER - The Colorado women's basketball team earned its first Pac-12 Conference victory against Utah on Tuesday night at the Coors Events Center. But the No. 23 Buffaloes aren't done with the Utes just yet.
In a relatively rare scheduling scenario, the two teams will compete back-to-back, with the next matchup set for Sunday in Salt Lake City.
All Pac-12 women's basketball teams are participating in this unusual home-and-home series with a traveling partner in the conference sometime this season. The schedule matches CU and Utah in one of the earliest series.
The back-to-back matchup is just the third in CU team history to occur during the regular season, with the previous two both against Colorado State in the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons. Though the Buffs have played teams back-to-back on several other occasions, most marked the end of conference play and the beginning of the postseason.
The Utes will have home court advantage on Sunday, but Buffs guard Chucky Jeffery doesn't think the location change will make much of a difference. In the Buffs' 67-57 win, Jeffery came out strong against the Utes, recording a game-high 28 points and 12 rebounds for her 23rd career double-double.
"I don't think there's necessarily going to be an upper hand (Sunday), because we play back-to-back," Jeffery said. "Neither team is going to do anything differently. It'll just come down to who's going to be smarter and who is going to execute."
For CU head coach Linda Lappe, meeting with Utah again so soon just means that both teams will have a better idea of what to expect from the opponent.
"It's different that we play them again so soon, but it's also good because we know what they are going to do and they know what we are going to do," Lappe said. "That is what is so fun about conference play. You know each other, you have the scouting report, and eventually it comes down to who is going to execute better in what they do."
While the Buffs were able to earn their first Pac-12 victory Tuesday night, the Utes remain winless in the conference. Utah head coach Anthony Levrets and his players are hungry for a victory, and they won't shy away from their shot at one against a ranked CU team.
"Our kids aren't into moral victories," Levrets said after Tuesday's game. "We're happy with the effort, but at some point in time, you're got to put a 'W' in the column. We're going to do everything we can . . . on Sunday to give ourselves the best chance to win."
Colorado, though, was also winless in the conference before Tuesday night, having fallen to both No. 4 Stanford and No. 7 California last week at home. The Buffs are just as eager to hold onto their national ranking and gain some momentum in Pac-12 play.
"(The first Pac-12 win) was really important," Jeffery said. "We knew we couldn't go on a longer slide. We knew at some point that every team in the conference is going to have to face those two teams back to back, we just had to face ours early on . . . now we have to turn around and go back to Utah and try to get them there as well."
Jeffery said that for Sunday the Buffs would need to focus more on Utah's key players: guard Iwalani Rodrigues and forwards Michelle Plouffe and Taryn Wicijowski. Plouffe and Wicijowski entered Tuesday's game averaging 15.8 points each. They led the Utes in scoring Tuesday night, each contributing 17, with Rodrigues adding 12.
"We have to focus on them more because that's where all of their points come from," Jeffery said. "We have to force the other players to score the ball, something that they're not used to doing."
Sunday's game is set for 3 p.m. MST and will be broadcast on Pac-12 Mountain. Next week, the Buffs return to the CEC to take on Arizona State (Thursday, 7 p.m.) and Arizona (Sunday, Jan. 20, 2 p.m.).