Women’s basketball: No. 6 CU Buffs hit road to take on Washington State

Kindyll Wetta isn’t a fan of traveling to play basketball games, but she and her Colorado teammates certainly know how to handle themselves on the road.

So, while Wetta may not be excited for this weekend’s trip to Washington, she knows the task at hand.

“I don’t really like away trips, to be honest, but I know you’ve got to go and do them,” she said. “But obviously, again, another two great teams that we’re going to play and can’t take lightly. It’s a good opportunity for us again to regroup after this past weekend and hopefully come out with two wins.”

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On Friday, the sixth-ranked Buffaloes will visit Washington State, followed by a Sunday game in Seattle against the Washington Huskies.

Neither opponent is ranked, but both are loaded with talent – and confidence. In Los Angeles on Sunday, Washington State upset then-No. 2 UCLA, while Washington knocked off No. 11 USC.

“This past week, there were so many upsets,” Wetta said. “It just reminds you that every single team in the Pac-12 is so good and can beat anybody on any night and you can’t take anybody lightly just because they’re not a ranked team.”

CU was one of the upset victims a week ago, losing to then-No. 25 Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore. The Buffs rallied to beat Oregon on Sunday.

Going into Friday’s game, the Buffs are well aware of how dangerous Washington State can be, even without its best player. Guard Charlisse Leger-Walker suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Cougars’ victory against UCLA. Leger-Walker was first-team All-Pac-12 the past three years, the freshman of the year in 2021 and the Pac-12 Tournament MVP last year.

“Losing Charlisse for the season certainly is a huge loss for the Pac-12 and all of women’s basketball,” CU head coach JR Payne said. “I have always thought that Charlisse was one of the most talented, well-rounded and most versatile players in all of women’s basketball. She’s a great competitor but also a really great person.”

Payne also has great respect for the program that WSU coach Kamie Ethridge has built and knows Friday won’t be easy for the Buffs.

“Kamie is an incredibly smart coach and I know that she’ll find a way to minimize the impact of their loss,” Payne said. “I have no doubt she will have her team ready to play this weekend. They have tremendous balance this year, which will help them sustain success.”

CU has had sustained success for a while, as well, but the Buffs are looking to get their offense back on track. After scoring less than 70 points just once in the first 16 games, the Buffs have had four straight games in the 60s.

“We don’t do good when we’re stagnant and we’ve talked about that a lot,” Wetta said. “I think we’ve kind of been like that a little bit the past few games. (We need to be) going in transition more, starting on defense with steals, pushing the envelope in that sense. And then just playing with pace.”

CU was better in that regard at Oregon, but just didn’t hit open shots.

“It’s just a confidence thing. Everybody has off days,” senior Jaylyn Sherrod said.

The Buffs are hoping to get back on track offensively, however.

“This team is like a puzzle,”  Sherrod said. “If Frida (Formann) is hitting shots, that opens up the lane for me. If the lane’s open up for me, it opens up (Aaronette Vonleh) under the basket. If Frida’s hitting shots, they can’t double Netty as hard because Frida and Maddie (Nolan) are on the outside. We’re just all a puzzle and once we all click together, it all functions well.

“I think it’s more so just being able to get back to doing us and being confident in what each and every person brings to the table and all click at the same time.”

No. 6 CU Buffs women’s basketball at Washington State Cougars

TIPOFF: Friday, 8 p.m., Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Wash.

TV/RADIO: Pac-12 Network/630 AM

RECORDS: Colorado 17-3 (7-2 Pac-12); Washington State 15-6 (4-4 Pac-12)

COACHES: Colorado — JR Payne, 8th season (136-96; 237-209 career). Washington State — Kamie Ethridge, 6th season (89-81; 172-125 career).

KEY PLAYERS: Colorado — G Frida Formann, 5-11, Sr. (13.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg, .447 FG%, .408 3PT%, .930 FT%); C Quay Miller, 6-3, Sr. (10.0 ppg, 7.7 rpg, .348 3PT%); G Maddie Nolan, 5-11, Sr. (5.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg, .387 3PT%); G Jaylyn Sherrod, 5-7, Sr. (13.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.9 apg, 2.3 spg, .473 FG%); C Aaronette Vonleh, 6-3, Jr. (14.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, .594 FG%); G Kindyll Wetta, 5-9, Jr. (6.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.0 spg, .495 FG%). Washington State — G/F Beyonce Bea, 6-1, Sr. (6.9 ppg, 6.0 rpg, .570 FG%); C Bella Murekatete, 6-3, Sr. (13.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.8 spg, .558 FG%); G Astera Tuhina, 5-9, So. (8.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.5 spg, .435 3PT%); G Eleonora Villa, 5-8, Fr. (11.6 ppg, 2.0 apg, .352 3PT%); G Jenna Villa, 6-1, Fr. (7.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.000 FT%); G Tara Wallack, 6-2, Jr. (10.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.5 apg, .503 FG%, .857 FT%).

NOTES: CU continues its four-game road swing through the Pacific Northwest. The trip concludes Sunday at Washington. … The Buffs are 5-1 in true road games and 8-2 overall away from Boulder this season. … All three of the Buffs’ losses have come against ranked teams. … Miller needs 26 points to reach 1,000 during her time with the Buffs, while Sherrod needs four steals to reach 250. … WSU leads the series with CU, 14-10, including 8-3 in Pullman. The Buffs have won their last two trips to Pullman, however. … CU swept the two regular season meetings last year, but the Cougars beat the Buffs in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. … CU was No. 17 in Thursday’s NET rankings, while Washington State was at No. 21. … Washington State is 8-1 at home, with its only loss to rival Washington. … The Cougars are 4-1 in their last five games, losing to No. 15 USC. The Cougars are coming off an 85-82 upset of UCLA in Los Angeles on Sunday. Murekatete had 20 points and seven rebounds. … Ranked No. 24 in the AP poll in the preseason, WSU fell out of the rankings on Dec. 11. This week, they are second among the others receiving votes.

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