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RR Ralphie Report: JR Payne: Buffaloes have grown “leaps and bounds” since last matchup with Iowa


News Junkie
NCAA Womens Basketball: Oregon at Colorado

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado is ready for Caitlin Clark and Iowa

A lot can change in a year. Colorado’s fans know that better than anyone, as we witnessed our 1-11 disastrous football program transform into becoming America’s favorite team in the span of about 10 months.

Much like Coach Prime and the Buffaloes’ football team, coach JR Payne and her women’s hoops squads have really come into their own since their Sweet Sixteen defeat at the hands of Iowa in 2023. After a year of growth, the Buffaloes’ women are ready for another crack at Caitlin Clark and the one-seeded Hawkeyes.

“I think [we’ve grown] leaps and bounds in a lot of ways,” said Payne when asked about how her team has changed since their last game against Iowa. “I think just overall maturation. We have a lot of upperclassman. We’ve got a couple of fifth-year seniors and players that have just been around the program for a really long time. I think they’ve done a great job of leading and communicating.”

One of those leaders that Payne is referring to is senior forward Quay Miller, who’s playing in her final tournament with the Buffs. Miller is bubbling with excitement to get a second chance to take down Caitlin Clark and company to move CU into the Elite Eight for the first time since 2002.

“I think everyone was excited to see that we’re getting a chance at [Iowa] again,” said Miller. “I’m definitely excited just because it’s two great teams. We’re the underdog obviously and we think that we thrive in those positions.”

Miller played 36 minutes in the Buffs’ Sweet Sixteen game last year, racking up a double-double against the Hawkeyes. Since that last matchup, Miller has grown a lot, specifically with her maturity. Colorado’s star forward has learned the importance of being a key part of a system larger than herself.

“I’m more mature in the sense that it doesn’t need to be me,” said Miller. “I think that last year, I was caught up in [thinking] if I don’t play good, then I’m letting the team down. Now, I’m just confident in the pieces that we have and them all working together.”

Another Buffalo that’s really come into her own since 2023 is guard Frida Formann. Formann has always been an offensive threat since her arrival in Boulder in 2020, especially from deep.

In last year’s Iowa matchup, Frida’s 21 points led the Buffaloes in scoring and were second only to Caitlin Clark. Since then, Formann has been honed in on bolstering her skills on the defensive floor.

“I think I’ve definitely grown a lot in my maturity and as a defender,” said Formann. “I’ve been trying work on having better feet and not being a liability.”

With Colorado’s roster being stacked with some of the nation’s best defenders like Jaylyn Sherrod and Kindyll Wetta, Formann recognized that team’s were trying to exploit her weaknesses on defense. As a response, she’s been working hard to improve her one-on-one defense.

“Not that I was bad, but we have so many good defenders that the people we played were like, ‘If you’re gonna attack someone, it’s gonna be Frida,’” said Formann. “I know that they’re gonna send all their best one-on-one players against me and I have to be able to hold my ground.”

Formann’s been working on her one-on-one defense exactly for a moment like this, where she’ll likely have to go up against Caitlin Clark. Guarding a player like Clark is anything but easy, but Formann has been mentally preparing for the task.

“[I have to] just keep having confidence with that and keep learning,” said Formann. “Don’t get down on yourself if you get beat a couple times. I think I kinda just have the mentality of next time, it’s not gonna happen.”

Although the roster looks nearly identical, this Buffaloes team has changed a lot in the last year. With their newfound maturity and experience, they’re more than ready to shock the world when they face of the Hawkeyes.

“We’ve seen great players and great teams all season long and it kinda feels the same going against Iowa,” said coach Payne. “We do feel prepared, for sure.”

by RylandScholes
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