Stanford Buffaloed By Colorado, 62-59
March 23, 2002
By TIM KORTE
AP Sports Writer
BOISE, Idaho - At 6-foot-2, Randi Wirt rarely defends on the perimeter.One thing she's done for a long time, though, is shoot free throws in thedriveway with her father.
She was great on both counts, and it paid off beautifully for Colorado.
Wirt swished two free throws with eight seconds remaining and Tera Bjorklandscored 10 of her 17 points in the second half as third-seeded Colorado beat No.2 Stanford 62-59 Saturday night in a West Regional semifinal.
'It was just another two free throws,' said Wirt, who practiced them withher father, Robert, as a youth in New Prague, Minn. 'That's what everybodydoes with their dad growing up. Pretend it's an NCAA regional and shoot.'
Colorado's victory assures the Big 12 of a team in the Final Four for thefirst time. The Buffaloes (24-9) will play in the regional final against thewinner of the Oklahoma-Texas Tech game, two other league members, with thewinner of Monday's game advancing to San Antonio.
Besides being cool at the line, Wirt drew the assignment against 6-2 NicolePowell, who posted triple-doubles in Stanford's first two NCAA tournamentgames. This time, she had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
'She's a big guard,' said Wirt, who usually defends under the basket. 'Ifwe played a 1 or 2 (guard) against her, she would have posted us up. It wasdifferent picking her up in front, rather than running up and down to thepost.'
Stanford (32-3) had a chance to force overtime with 4.2 seconds left. Theball went to Powell on the left wing but she passed to Lindsey Yamasaki at thetop of the key. Her 3-point attempt at the horn bounced off the backboard.
'We work every day on that play in practice,' Stanford coach TaraVanDerveer said. 'We look for Nicole to take the 3. I thought Nicole had thelook, but then it went to Lindsey.'
Asked if she expected to shoot it, Yamasaki said, 'No. The plan wasn't forme to take the last shot.'
Eisha Bohman scored 10 points and guarded Powell when Wirt was on the bench.Sabrina Scott helped Colorado's cause with 10 rebounds as the Buffaloes gotcontributions throughout the lineup.
'We're proud of that,' Wirt said. 'We don't have a superstar.'
Yamasaki led Stanford with 14 points. Bethany Doniphan scored 13.
It was close throughout the second half, with neither team able to assemblea knockout run. Bohman put the Buffaloes ahead 60-56 when she cut to the basketand scored with 1:51 on the clock.
Powell answered for Stanford, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:32 remaining, onlyher second field goal of the second half.
The Cardinal couldn't convert their opportunities in the final minute.Freshman T'Nae Thiel got free underneath with 10 seconds to go, but lostcontrol. The ball came loose and Wirt was fouled.
'We were trying to force too much and we couldn't get into a rhythm,'VanDerveer said.
Colorado's strength is the perimeter game, with Mandy Nightingale averaging13.4 points a game and Jenny Roulier scoring 12.5.
But the Buffaloes were much shorter than Stanford's outside players.Nightingale shot 0-for-5, scoring five points, while Roulier had seven pointson 3-for-11 shooting.
'We'd never played a team with their size and it was a struggle to get theshot off,' Colorado coach Ceal Barry said. 'Our guards had a tough timegetting shots. We felt we needed everyone to make plays to help us out.'
So the Buffaloes worked the ball inside to Bjorkland. Then it was up to Wirtand Bohman to defend Powell.
'I was just trying to do too much, too soon, trying to force it,' Powellsaid.
Barry got the better of her old pal, VanDeveer. Barry was an assistant whenVanDeveer coached the United States to the gold medal at the 1996 AtlantaOlympics. The two hugged before tipoff.
Both teams established themselves as national programs long ago but were inround of 16 for the first time in five years. The rust was apparent after afirst half both teams wanted to forget.
It was tied at 27 at halftime. Colorado shot 4-for-19 through the first 10minutes before improving to 30 percent while Stanford, averaging 16.6turnovers, had 11 by the break.
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