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Freshly Minted No. 25 Buffs Hit the Road

Dec 6, 2021

CEDAR CITY, Utah—The newly appointed No. 25 Colorado Buffaloes are back on the road for the first time in six games to take on Southern Utah on Tuesday.

Colorado (8-0) learned of its updated ranking, just minutes before boarding its flight to Southern Utah on Monday. CU's ranking marks the first time the Buffs have appeared in the AP Top 25 since Dec. 26, 2016. CU was ranked for five consecutive weeks in that 2016-17 season, Payne's first at CU. 

"We're honored to be considered one of the better teams in the country," head coach JR Payne commented. "I think we're certainly working towards being that team, but we have a long ways to go. We're really more focused on what we're doing every day to get better to attack our weaknesses and keep growing as a ballclub."

Tuesday's also will mark Payne's first trip back to Southern Utah. Payne was the Thunderbirds' head coach for five seasons, spanning from 2009-14. Payne was the SUU coach the last time the Buffs and T-Birds matched up in the 2014 WNIT in Boulder. Colorado owns a 4-0 record against the Thunderbirds.

"Cedar City was home to T [Toriano Towns], Jill [Mahoney] and I for five years," Payne explained. "We won a [Big Sky] championship there and have great memories. We love that place. We love the community. A lot of people that are close like family will come to the game and it will be fun to be back there.'

Southern Utah (4-4) is on a four-game winning streak, turning around an 0-4 start to the season. The Thunderbirds are coming off an 87-65 win over Idaho, where the team went 9-for-17 from 3-point range. 

"They're [Southern Utah] a good basketball team," Payne added. "They've had a lot of success. They hardly ever lose in that building. They're very well-coached. It's going to be fun to be back, but we better be ready because it'll be a battle."

The tie-ins between the Payne and the Thunderbirds continue. 

SUU head coach Tracy Sanders was a teammate of Payne's at Saint Mary's. The two played together from 1996-99, helping the Gaels earn their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in school history during the 1998-99 season.

Tuesday's game (6:30 p.m. MT) will be broadcast on ESPN+. Cory Lopez will have the call on the Colorado Radio Network and the Varsity Network app starting at 6 p.m. MT.