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Payne, Buffs Bringing Competitiveness Early On

Oct 26, 2020

BOULDER – Head coach JR Payne and the Colorado women's basketball team have been working towards the start of the 2020-21 season. The strange thing is the only concrete fact they are building towards at this point is a Nov. 25 start date. 

That is the date that the NCAA has permitted schools across the country to begin playing games. The only issue is the Buffaloes do not have a set schedule for the season. They know they will play 22 Pac-12 Conference games this season, two against each rival. That leaves three allotted open spots in their preseason to get ready for the gauntlet that is Pac-12 women's basketball. 

In previous seasons, Colorado has been able to schedule around 10 or 11 preseason contests in preparation for the conference slate. Last year's team went 11-0 in the preseason and won their Pac-12 opener on the road against Utah, marking its first 12-0 start since the 2011-12 season. 

Now the Buffs must cram all that preparation into three to be determined, opponents. 

"Whoever they put on our schedule, we just have to attack it in the scout," senior Mya Hollingshed explained. "We are going to scout every team like we have in the past and be ready to play. We know that we are playing every Pac-12 team twice and we'll be ready."

Coach Payne and her staff have turned to the team's practices as an opportunity to add a competitive fire to the team. Something she hopes translates come tip-off. 

"We do some things [in practice] that are intentional about keeping it fun and loose," Payne noted. "Something different we have done this year is put a competitive twist to everything we are doing. Everything we do has a winner and a loser. Whether it is a shooting drill or an actual five-on-five live session. That's a little bit different, but we also have players that want that. We are an extremely competitive group right now."

It's not only the coaches that have noticed the completive juices flowing at practice, but the team has noticed a change early on as well.  

"Practices this year have been a lot more competitive than in the past," Hollingshed admitted. "Being honest, I think that is going to prepare us more for the conference than it ever has in the past. Even though we don't have as many preseason games, our competitiveness will set us up to be prepared."

While a schedule is certainly on the horizon, the Buffs have been able to use their early practices as a time of self-discovery. An unforeseen bonus that is helping build the team's identity, during unknown times. 

"With so much time we had to spend away from each other, even if we had a schedule, I think we would still be so focused on each other," Payne added. "Our team is very close. We don't have any drama. We are just being very intentional about enjoying each other."