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Mar 19, 2004

NCAA Tournament Central

No team likes to lose, especially a team with a winning tradition like Colorado, but a 63-56 setback to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Conference Tournament may have just given the No. 17 ranked Buffaloes the spark they were looking for.

Colorado (22-7) opens the NCAA Tournament as the No. 6 seed in the East Region and will play Saturday night against No. 11 UC Santa Barbara (25-6) on the Gauchos' home court. Tip-off is scheduled for approximately 9:30 p.m. MST, or 30 minutes after Saturday's first game between No. 3 seed Houston and No. 14 seed. Wisconsin-Green Bay. The winners of those games would play on Monday, March 22, in Santa Barbara.

In the loss to Oklahoma, the Buffaloes, which were 11-5 in the Big 12 during the regular season, shot just 33 percent and were outrebounded 40-23.

"After the loss down in Dallas (to Oklahoma) we're as motivated as ever,'' senior center Tera Bjorklund said. "Right now we just want to get out there and play.''

Bjorklund, who leads the team with 18.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, finished with 15 against Oklahoma on 3-of-12 shooting from the field.

"They're in the Big 12, and they know every game out is a battle,'' Colorado coach Ceal Barry said about her team. "They didn't like getting knocked out in their first game. We've got an edge. I dont think there's any way this team's going to go down there without the idea of coming away with two wins. We're focused.''

Bjorklund will be matched up with 6-foot-8 Lindsay Taylor, who is Santa Barbara's all-time leading scorer with 1,733 points.

Taylor had 25 points in the Gauchos' 68-51 win against Idaho in the Big West Conference tournament title game for their eighth straight tournament championship.

Taylor leads Santa Barbara with 16.5 points and 7.3 boards per game.

"They play extremely hard,'' Barry said."They play good pressure man-to-man defense, they post up strong, and run their offense with great precision.''

Santa Barbara leads the series 2-1, having won two straight, including an 83-77 victory at Boulder on Dec. 30, 1977.

The Gauchos have won 39 of their last 41 games at the Thunderdome, including 14 of 15 this season.

PROBABLE STARTERS: UC Santa Barbara - F Brandy Richardson (6.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg), F Kristen Mann (13.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg), C Taylor (16.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), G April McDivitt (7.7 ppg, 4.4 apg), G Mia Fisher (9.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg). Colorado - F Randie Wirt (10.3 ppg, 8.0 rpg), F Veronica Johns-Richardson (7.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg), C Bjorklund (18.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg), G Kate Fagan (13.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg), G Emily Waner (7.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg).

HOW THEY GOT HERE: UC Santa Barbara - Automatic bid, Big West champion. Colorado - At-large berth.

ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: UC Santa Barbara - 5-9, 9 years. Colorado - 17-11, 11 years.