Clash of Top-Ranked Teams Set for Friday
BOULDER – No. 22 Colorado is set to host No. 2 Stanford at the CU Events Center on Friday. The game is the only one of the day that pits two top-25 teams against each other.
Colorado (13-0, 2-0 Pac-12) is the only DI men's or women's team left without a loss on the season. The last meeting in Boulder was one for the history books. The unranked Buffs upset then No. 1 Stanford 77-72 in overtime, putting an end to the Cardinal's bid for an undefeated season.
But that memory has been completely put in the review view.
"I think this game is just like any other game we've had this season," fifth-year senior Mya Hollingshed commented. "We're just going to try to maintain and do the things we're good at. We'll just continue to play our brand of basketball. Last year there was a lot of hype because they were No. 1. This year is no different with them at No. 2. They are always going to be a talented ballclub, but we typically always match up well with them. It's always a marquee matchup."
Last season's matchup was played in an empty arena due to COVID-19 guidelines in place. The Buffs, in the eyes of the outsiders, snuck up on the top-ranked Cardinal. CU's win was at the time, just the seventh time an unranked team defeated a No. 1. It was also CU's first even win over a No. 1 and just the second time a CU athletic program had defeated the top-ranked team in the country (volleyball).
This time around the Buffs know there's no surprise factor.
"I don't know what their [Stanford's] mindset was coming into last year, but I do know they will be laser-focused [on Friday]," head coach JR Payne explained. "We could be 0-13 and they would still come in with that type of focus just based on what happened last year. We always try to be like that. I see Stanford as a team that's always extremely disciplined. They execute their scout. They run their stuff with precision. I see them as a team that is always like that, but it'll be even more this year."
It has been a while since a marquee matchup like this has taken place at the CU Events Center. Friday's matchup will be the first between two top-25 teams in Boulder since No. 17 CU and No. 4 Stanford met on Jan. 12, 2014.
"You always dream about going to college and playing for a top program," Hollingshed said about the Buffs' turnaround. "You want to go to the Big Dance and have all those experiences that you see on TV. I wanted to have those experiences when I came to college. Basketball isn't just something we play and just show up for. We want to see the rewards and achievements of our hard work. It's not like we're just playing for trophies and stats. We like to see our hard work pay off. Over my five years, I can say our hard work is finally paying off."
Colorado's identity this season has been focused on its defensive prowess. The Buffs have had only one team score more than 60 points (UCLA) this season and has held opponents to 52.1 points per game, good for 12th in the NCAA. The Buffs are also 15th in the NCAA with a Pac-12 leading 12.3 steals per game. CU has forced 20.4 turnovers per game (1st Pac-12) and has a 6.77 turnover margin (13th NCAA).
"We're going to be aggressive defensively and we're going to try and score the ball," Hollingshed added. "We're going to have all these different matchups and schemes. We're going to come up with the best defensive and offensive gameplan to beat you."
Stanford (11-3, 2-0 Pac-12), the defending national champions, still own a 22-5 advantage over the Buffs. The Cardinal got the season split with their 62-54 win at Maples Pavilion last February. The last time Stanford played CU as defending national champions was in the 1993 NCAA Tournament. CU picked up the 80-67 win in Missoula, Mont. Sophomore guard Shelley Sheetz, who will be on the radio broadcast on Friday, led the Buffs with 28 points.
Thad Anderson and former Buffs Kami Carmann-Snyder will call the game for the Pac-12 Networks (7 p.m. MT). Sheetz and Cory Lopez will be on the Colorado Radio Network, starting with the pregame show at 6:30.
Sunday's game against California was postponed on Wednesday, due to health and safety protocols within the Bear's program.
Tickets are still available at CUBuffs.com/tickets.