KNOXVILLE – head coach JR Payne and her Colorado Buffaloes travel to No. 23 Tennessee for a Black Friday Showdown at Thomas-Boling Arena.
Colorado (4-1) will travel to Knoxville for the first time since December 20, 1993. The Buffaloes and Lady Vols have met four times, most recently at the 1997 NCAA tournament in Iowa City, Iowa.
No stranger to the big stage, the Buffs play in enemy arenas throughout Pac-12. The history of women’s basketball in Tennessee cannot be denied, but Colorado has earned a reputation for fearing no one over the past few seasons.
“It’s exciting to play against another team on historic ground,” said Payne. “Tennessee has this fame and history and that’s exciting for us. We are the team that is not afraid of anyone. We play against really great teams in our league every night and I think we see Tennessee as another really great team like the Stanfords and the Oregon’s. We’re just happy to have the opportunity to play someone like that so early in the season.”
Colorado will use the Thanksgiving holiday as another opportunity to grow closer as a unit. The Buffs have been together since the team’s trip to Spain in August.
“I think our team is obviously very close,” Payne said of the vacation together. “Spain kind of boosted it all. We look forward to all being together. We did different things throughout November to remind ourselves of what we are thankful for. I think we’re a really tight-knit group and it kind of makes sense that we’d be together on Thanksgiving.”
The Buffs fought back against Air Force from eight, winning 71-63 last Saturday. The Buffs outlasted the Falcons despite a season-low in field goals made (23) and their season-high in turnovers (20).
“I don’t think we’ve improved [from Texas Tech] against the Air Force,” Payne noted. “We just didn’t have much flow. I don’t know if it was because of travel, to have been on the road and then played straight away. But I didn’t think we played particularly well. We want to play better next time.”
Tennessee (2-4) started the season ranked No. 5 in the nation but suffered losses to Ohio State, Indiana, UCLA and Gonzaga earlier in the year. Coming off a three game stretch in three days, the Lady Vols play Bad Boy Mowers Women’s Battle 4 Atlantis. Rickea Jackson leads UT with 17.7 points per game.
Friday’s game will be televised on the SEC Network (5pm MT). Courtney Lyle and Steffi Sorensen will have the call. Cory Lopez will be live on the Colorado Radio Network starting at 4:30 p.m. MT with pre-game coverage.