The 2022-23 season of the University of Colorado women’s basketball was one of the most successful in the program’s history and made its mark in the history of CU athletics.
Just a few months ago, the Buffs began their season in early November with big dreams ahead of them. The team would go on to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, eventually losing 87-77 to Iowa, who would eventually fall to LSU in the title game. This gave CU an outstanding overall record of 25-9, with many of those losses coming down to just a few points. In the Pac-12, the Buffs went 13-5, earning them a six-seed ranking in the NCAA Tournament.
On offense, the Buffs averaged 69.2 points per game, about four points higher than their average during the 2021-22 season. The team averaged six three-pointers a game thanks to sharpshooters like Frida Formann and Tayanna Jones. Aaronette Vonleh had the highest field-goal percentage with 58.5%, a product of her potent offense in the paint.
While Colorado performed well on offense, their impeccable defense arguably carried them against the best offensive teams in the country.
“We hang our hat on defense,” said head coach JR Payne.
This defensive rigor is evident in the team’s 38 rebounds per game. Center Quay Miller accounted for a good portion of these rebounds, racking up 301 this season and averaging nine per game.
The Buffs switched between man-to-man defense and zone depending on the opponent. In the NCAA Tournament, CU saw much success in a tight zone defense which prevented internal penetration. Still, this strategy faltered against solid outside shooters like Iowa’s Caitlin Clark.
Stats aside, the composition of this team was exceptional. With two strong centers – Miller and Vonleh – CU was able to perfect their over-the-top passes for lots of points in the paint. Senior guard Jaylyn Sherrod’s speed on both ends of the court was critical in preserving the fast pace of competitive games. Kindyll Wetta and Frida Formann’s 3-pointers were fun to watch and helped rally their teammates and hold momentum throughout tough quarters.
It is safe to say that Colorado’s bench ran deep, as Payne brought in many subs throughout the season who performed at the highest level of play. Guard Tameiya Sadler penetrated the key and made fade-away jumpers to get her team back in some close matches. Wetta hit multiple three-pointers in the tournament’s first round against Middle Tennessee, racking up points for a commanding victory. One of the main factors of the Buffs’ success this season is that no matter which combination of players was on the court, the level of play rarely dropped. This speaks to Colorado’s high standards for their performance and unwavering determination throughout the bench.
Colorado’s remarkable season ended in the Sweet 16 against No. 2 Iowa. While this was a crushing loss for a team that sets such high standards for themselves, they can walk away knowing that they accomplished a historic feat.
“There’s a lot of people that are reenergized about our program and the way that these guys play,” said Payne after the Iowa loss. “[I’m] just unbelievably proud of what they represent on and off the floor… that’s more than basketball, you know.”
Back for more
Although a few of this year’s players will continue from Colorado, Payne isn’t going anywhere. On Thursday, March 30, athletic director Rick George announced that Payne’s contract was extended until the 2027-28 season, adding five more years to her contract. This comes as no surprise after Payne led this year’s team to the most wins since the 2012-13 season. Payne’s 119 career wins show that she has worked tirelessly to accomplish this year’s historic tournament run.
From recruitment to Sweet Sixteen games, Payne leads her players with grace and vigor. According to her players, Payne is known for believing in the “underdogs.” In Jaylyn Sherrod’s case, Payne was the only coach to offer her a position at a Power 5 school. This year, Sherrod led her team to a monumental victory in the second NCAA tournament round against three-seed Duke.
“Coach J never waivered, she always believed in me,” said Sherrod after the win over Duke. “I was told I was too small, I was told I didn’t have the skills to play point guard at a Power 5 level…but [Coach Payne] stayed with me through it all. That loyalty is the reason I committed here, the reason I stayed four years, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Coach Payne will return for the 2023-24 season to push her team further and harvest the talent she has been growing for years.
Looking forward: 2023-24 season
With a historic tournament run under their belts, CU women’s basketball has made a name for itself. With the potential for four of this season’s starters to return and an extended coaching contract for JR Payne, next year’s team will be a force to be reckoned with. Miller has announced that she will stay at Colorado for her final season, using her extra year of eligibility given to players during the Covid-19 pandemic. Formann will also return for her senior year and continue to wow CU fans with her incredible shot-making skills and versatility. Sherrod has yet to announce if she will use her remaining year of eligibility. The only player to finish her eligibility and end her time at Colorado will be Jones.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sophie McKeown at firstname.lastname@example.org.