After winning two of their last three regular season games, head coach Linda Lappe and the Colorado women’s basketball team are looking to put together a solid performance as the ninth seed in the Pac-12 Tournament this week.
Colorado hopes to overcome the loss of junior forward Jen Reese, who injured her shoulder during last Friday’s win against UCLA. UCLA will also be Colorado’s Thursday match-up in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament.
“It’s a big blow,” Lappe said Monday of Reese’s season-ending injury. “She can score in so many ways, she’s a versatile player.”
“This team will miss Jen Reese, but notable contributors remain,” Blackburn said, citing senior center Rachel Hargis and sophomore forward Jamee Swan as players capable of filling the void in the frontcourt left by Reese.
The Buffs have struggled in the Pac-12 this season, winning only six of their 18 conference games after starting off the season 10-1 in their non-conference schedule. According to Blackburn, there’s more to this team than a .500 record.
“This team is clicking at the right time,” Blackburn said. “Their biggest challenge is executing for a full 40 minutes, and not just in the second half.”
Indeed, these Buffaloes have been a second half team as of late. In last Sunday’s overtime win at Arizona, the Buffs held the Wildcats to only 17 points in the second half and overtime, after allowing 39 points in the first half. In last Friday’s win over UCLA at home, the Buffs held the Bruins to only 12 points in the second half after giving up 30 points in the game’s first half.
Lappe said that a key to putting together two complete halves throughout the Pac-12 Tournament will be “to try and make sure when we step onto the court we’re ready, we’re focused and we’re prepared.” A big part of that, Lappe continued, is “to understand that if you’re not prepared, it could be your last game.”
Both Lappe and Blackburn noted that at this point in the season, the Buffs are playing “one and done” games, and Blackburn believes that win-or-go-home mentality is a big part of the playoff atmosphere of March basketball.
“There’s a sense of urgency,” Blackburn said. “During the regular season, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but being one and done just makes it that much more urgent.”
For Colorado, being seeded ninth is a disappointment after securing the fourth seed in last year’s Pac-12 tournament. With the Buffs’ first round game featuring the eighth-seeded UCLA, one of only two teams in the Pac-12 that Colorado beat twice this season, the favorable odds are something of a blessing.
“We won’t take it lightly,” Lappe said of the impending match-up. “Where we’re at right now, we have to fight in every game that we’re in just to keep advancing.”
Should the Buffs get past UCLA, the tournament’s top seed, Stanford, awaits them in the second round. Blackburn believes that Colorado has the ability to be competitive if they get the chance to take on the Cardinals Friday.
“I thought earlier this season Colorado was one of the first teams to challenge them,” Blackburn said of the Buffs’ 87-77 loss to Stanford at home in January. “To hang with Stanford, Colorado will have to run with them in transition.”
Whether the Buffs get a shot at Stanford and the final rounds of tournament play remains to be seen, but there is hope. Their first-round game against UCLA tips off at 1 p.m. in Seattle, at the University of Washington.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Routhier at Samuel.firstname.lastname@example.org.