DURHAM, N.C.—Sixth-seeded Colorado is set to open its NCAA Tournament run against 11th-seeded Middle Tennessee at the historic Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday (5 p.m. MT/ESPNews).
The first-round game will be Colorado’s first-ever experience in one of college basketball’s most storied venues.
“I don’t think I really thought about it,” senior Jaylyn Sherrod commented about playing at Cameron Indoor. “That’s all you hear growing up as a kid, maybe more so on the men’s side, but it’s another opportunity to get out here [and play].”
The Buffs met the media on Friday and got their first chance to step on Coach K Court, an experience that was brand new to the roster last season in Iowa City. Colorado, who is making its second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and third-consecutive postseason, has been able to lean on last year’s experience to prepare for Saturday.
“I think most of us that were part of last year have been fueled by last year’s result for most of the season and have worked really hard to make sure that we’re not just physically prepared but also mentally prepared for a game or a moment like this,” head coach JR Payne expressed.
Five players got their first NCAA Tournament experience last season against Creighton and sophomore Aaronette Vonleh played sparingly last season for Arizona in the tournament before her transfer to Colorado.
“I would say [I learned] from last year’s experience that you have to play every game like it’s your last,” senior Quay Miller explained. “For me, that means I have to play like that’s probably going to be my last game. I can’t take any reps off. Every possession counts. Every mistake is going to count. You just have to prioritize every decision.”
Vonleh could be the missing piece to the puzzle for the Buffs in this year’s tournament. She starts the weekend ranked 16th in the NCAA with a Pac-12-best 58.7 field goal %. The Pac-12’s Co-Most Improved Player averaged 16.5 points per game in the Pac-12 Tournament and shot 71.4% from the field (15-21). Voneh has averaged 12.8 points per game since the start of February, shooting a 60.2% clip (59-63) in the CU’s last 10 games.
“She’s incredible,” Payne noted. “She’s a great teammate. She works hard. She’s one of the most athletic players I’ve probably ever coached as far as having the rare combination of…
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