LAS VEGAS – Eight women’s basketball teams from the Pac-12 hit the floor on Wednesday, playing in the first round of the conference tournament at Michelob Ultra Arena.
Colorado, meanwhile, got on a bus and went to an empty arena at UNLV to run through a two-hour practice.
It was fitting that the 20th-ranked Buffaloes (22-7) were removed from the action and spotlight while spending time as a team, because in preparing for this tournament, they’ve been focused mainly on themselves.
“I think we’re exactly where we need to be (mentally),” CU head coach JR Payne said after the workout at UNLV. “We’re focused, we’re organized, we’re excited, we’re light; but we’re also just really focused on ourselves and playing good basketball.”
Seeded third, the Buffs were one of four teams – along with Stanford, Utah and Arizona – to earn a first-round bye. It’s the first time in 10 years CU has had a first-round bye and this is the program’s highest seed for a conference tournament since 2004, when the Buffs were the No. 3 in the Big 12 Tournament.
CU will actually be the last team to play this week, as it doesn’t tipoff until 9:30 p.m. MT in Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Buffs will face either sixth-seeded USC (21-8) or 11th-seeded Oregon State (12-17).
“We’re prepared for both teams,” guard Kindyll Wetta said. “We’re gonna be ready for whoever we play. … We’ve already played both of these teams, we know who they are, we know what we can learn from – what we didn’t do and what we did do good – and go from there.”
During the practice at UNLV, the Buffs did some work in preparation for USC and some in preparation for Oregon State, but it’s been a very self-driven week overall.
“This has been really nice because we’ve been able to focus on ourselves all week and what we can do better,” Wetta said. “I think that’s been really helpful for us in the past few games is focusing on us.”
Two weeks ago, the Buffs went on a road trip to Arizona and didn’t play sharp in either game, sputtering past last-place Arizona State, 70-62, before getting routed by Arizona, 61-42.
Prior to facing then-No. 3 Stanford last Thursday, the Buffs looked in the mirror.
“We really just focused on ourselves and although we didn’t come out with a win, we were right there, and we should have won that game,” Wetta said of the 73-62 double-overtime loss to the Cardinal.
CU followed that up with a 95-69 rout of California in the regular season finale on Saturday.
Payne and her staff pride themselves on their ability to put together a scouting report and teach that to the players. It’s been a key to CU’s success in recent years. But, she admitted that relying a little less on those scouts and putting more focus on the Buffs has been important.
“We do end up being really scout-driven in a lot of what we do throughout the Pac-12 season,” she said. “So to have an opportunity to just say, what are some areas that we can get better and focus on that – because in the end, no one’s really doing anything that new right now. So, if we could just be a little bit better at some things, I think that helps us win more games.
“Sometimes it’s just, ‘Go play hard and have fun.’”
The Buffs seem to be doing that as they prepare to start the postseason on Thursday. They left UNLV feeling ready to roll – despite not knowing which team they’d be facing.
“I think we’re ready,” Wetta said. “We have a good balance of being focused but also having fun while we’re doing it, which makes a really good environment.”
No. 20 CU Buffs women’s basketball vs. USC Trojans or Oregon State Beavers
TIPOFF: Thursday, 9:30 p.m. MT, at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas
TV/RADIO: TV — Pac-12 Network. Radio — KHOW 630 AM
RECORDS: Colorado 22-7, 13-5 Pac-12; USC 21-8, 11-7 Pac-12; Oregon State 12-17, 4-14 Pac-12
COACHES: Colorado — JR Payne, 7th season (116-91; 217-204 career); USC — Lindsay Gottlieb, 2nd season (33-24; 268-152 career). Oregon State — Scott Rueck, 13th season (269-145; 557-233 career)
KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G Frida Formann, 5-11, Jr. (11.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 38.7% 3-point, 94.6% FT); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Sr. (14.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.5 spg); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Sr. (11.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.0 apg, 2.4 spg); C Aaronette Vonleh, 6-3, So. (11.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 57.7% FG); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, So. (5.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.7 spg). USC — G/F Okako Adika, 6-0, Sr. (7.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg); G Destiny Littleton, 5-9, Sr. (13.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.2 spg); G/F Rayah Marshall, 6-4, So. (12.9 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 1.4 spg); F Kadi Sissoko, 6-2, Sr. (15.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.3 spg); G Kayla Williams, 5-7, Jr. (5.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.6 spg). Oregon State — F Raegan Beers, 6-4, Fr. (13.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 57.8% FG); F Timea Gardiner, 6-3, Fr. (9.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg); F/C Jelena Mitrovic, 6-9, So. (7.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg); G Talia von Oelhoffen, 5-10, So. (13.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.2 spg); G Bendu Yeaney, 5-10, Sr. (8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.5 spg).
NOTES: On Wednesday, the Pac-12 announced the all-conference awards as voted on by media. CU’s Quay Miller and Jaylyn Sherrod both earned first-team honors, while Sherrod was named to the all-defensive team. The awards voted on by coaches were announced Tuesday. … CU is 8-11 all-time in the Pac-12 Tournament. … Going into Wednesday, USC was 17-20 all-time in the Pac-10/12 Tournament, while Oregon State was 16-20. … In the previous 11 Pac-12 Tournaments, the No. 3 seed is 6-5 in the quarterfinals, losing three times to the No. 6 seed and twice to the No. 11 seed. … CU lost its only regular season meeting with the Trojans, 71-54, on Jan. 29 in Boulder. … The Buffs won the only meeting with OSU, 67-48, in Corvallis, on Feb. 5. … USC’s Marshall and Sissoko were both named first-team All-Pac-12 by the media and coaches, while Littleton earned first-team honors from coaches. … Oregon State’s Raegan Beers was named the sixth player of the year and freshman of the year by media and coaches. She was also named first-team all-conference by coaches. … OSU’s von Oelhoffen is out for the season with an injury.
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