Rather than a home-court advantage, it's a hometown advantage that the Washington Huskies hope to take into the second round of the Pac-12 Conference Women's Tournament.
And U-Dub is doing its best to make the hometown - more specifically its students - take notice and flock to KeyArena for Friday night's game against No. 18 Colorado, which is riding a nine-game winning streak.
After a bracket flip OK'd by the conference, the tip time is approximately 9:30 p.m. MST rather than the initial mid-afternoon start set for No. 4 seed CU (24-5, 13-5) and No. 5 UW (20-10, 12-7). The later start likely will mean more Huskies fans in attendance, and the school is trying to generate student interest by offering free admission, free food and free transportation from campus.
The freebies apparently helped pull in a large portion of the 4,665 attending Thursday night's UW-Oregon first-round game, which saw the Huskies stage a school-record rally - they came back from a 22-point deficit - to down the Ducks 69-62 and advance.
But whether it's playing on the Huskies' home-court or in their hometown the Buffs don't appear too shaken by either prospect, although CU senior guard Chucky Jeffery conceded that UW's crowd on Thursday night "probably gave them a little advantage in that sense . . . they had a nice crowd; it got them amped up and it's probably what got them back in the game."
Jeffery's coach, Linda Lappe, called the Pac-12 tournament site "a hometown advantage for sure. They had a good turnout (Thursday) night, as did Washington State - which you would expect. That's one of the reasons (the Pac-12) went to a city that was more centrally located for a lot of the teams . . . we expect there to be a lot of Washington fans there tonight.
"But we also expect there to be a pretty good contingent of CU fans that are really loud. And it's never bothered our players to play on the road and in front of an opposing team's fans. It brings excitement to the arena . . . I always think an arena that's loud and energetic gives you a lot of energy. It'll be fun for our players to play in a good atmosphere."
Last year's Pac-12 Women's Tournament was held at the Galen Center on Southern California's campus in Los Angeles. Attendance was woeful, which prompted the conference to ponder and finally switch sites. Thursday's attendance total for the afternoon and evening sessions at the KeyArena was in the 7,000-plus range.
But of more concern to the Buffs than a semi-hostile environment is shutting down the Huskies' perimeter shooting and not allowing UW guard Jazmine Davis to have her way as she did against the Ducks. Davis, the Pac-12's second-leading scorer at 19-plus points a game, got 28 points against Oregon and hit half of her team's six three-pointers.
That trey total - the product of 31 attempts - is nearly three below the Huskies' league-leading 8.2 a game. The Buffs held them to five three-pointers in their 68-61 win in Boulder on Feb. 24 and would like to at least match that defensive effort on Friday night.
CU outrebounded UW 44-30 in the meeting last month and limited the Huskies to 38.3 percent shooting from the field. UW was 5-of-20 from beyond the arc, including just 2-of-14 in the second half.
Also in that game, Davis was held nine points - and duplicating that 'D' on her by CU's Brittany Wilson and Jeffery would enhance the Buffs' prospects of advancing to Saturday's semifinals. Davis hit only two of her 13 field goal attempts.
More productive for UW in the first meeting with CU were forward Aminah Williams (12 points) and guard Kristi Kingma (19). Against Oregon, Williams scored 17 and along with Davis helped generate the Huskies' comeback. But Kingma went 0-for-10 from the field and finished the night with only four points.
"She hurt us in Boulder and we expect her to be better tonight," Lappe said of Kingma, adding, "The big thing for us is making sure they don't get settled in offensively and we make them do things they're not used to doing."
The Buffs practiced on Thursday morning at Seattle University and toured Pike Place Market that afternoon. They got their first glimpse and feel of KeyArena at a shoot-around on Friday morning. Lappe said having Thursday off "benefitted us a lot. You work hard to be able to not play the first day of the tournament . . . you can watch, scout and give your players a chance to see teams play.
"We thought that was beneficial. We're going to be excited and ready . . . we can't wait to play. Anytime you have that it's a good feeling. We just have to make sure we don't come out and throw the ball away because we're so amped to play."
Despite the venue, sophomore forward Jen Reese said she and her CU teammates expect "our fans to probably be the loudest in the building. Our fans are always great on the road. It's not really a home-court advantage for them; it's a neutral court but they are just a little bit closer than we are. We love playing on the road; we like coming out and showing everyone what we can do."