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Buffs Host No. 16/15 Vanderbilt Sunday

Nov 11, 2006

THE GAME: The University of Colorado will face Vanderbilt University on Sunday, Nov. 12, at 1:30 p.m. at the Coors Events Conference Center.

BROADCAST: All Colorado women's basketball regular and post season games are broadcast live on KKZN AM 760, Boulder's Progressive Talk station. Mark Johnson will handle play by play duties for Sunday's contest and is joined by USA Basketball's Carol Callan with the color commentary.

BUFFS DOWN DONS: Kara Richards made the most of her return to the hard court.

The 6-foot-4 center, playing in her first official game since March 8, 2005, scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds to help Colorado to a season-opening 62-56 win over San Francisco Friday night at the Coors Events Conference Center.

Richards, just two points off her career high, hit 8-of-10 from the floor and also had four assists. She was complimented by forward Jackie McFarland who had 17 points and 12 rebounds for her 20th career double-double. Richards missed the 2005-06 after breaking a bone in her foot three days before the season opener.

The Buffs (1-0) trailed 30-26 at intermission but rallied to break a 26-game losing streak when trailing at halftime and their first such win since beating Missouri 56-51 on Jan. 18, 2005. The Buffs trailed the Tigers 28-20 in that game. CU shot 71.4 percent in the second stanza (15-of-21) while holding USF to 39.3 percent in the same time frame (11-of-28).

Leading 51-49 with 5:10 remaining in the game, Colorado went on a 9-0 run to pull away. Freshman point guard Whitney Houston started the rally with a lay up and dished out assists on a 3-pointer from junior Susie Powers ? her first points in a CU uniform ? and a lay up by fellow Memphis native Candace Rucker. Richards finished off the run with her final field goal of the night on a pass from Rucker.

The Rucker-Houston duo combined for 10 points, five assists and three steals off the bench. The freshman played a large portion of the second half with starters Richards, McFarland and Powers.

Friday's game marked the return of Tanya Haave who spent four years as an assistant coach with the Buffaloes under Ceal Barry. Haave is in her first year as head coach of the Dons.

BUFFS IN EXHIBITION: CU took care of business during the exhibition schedule, winning its two games by an average of 35.5 points. The Buffaloes defeated the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs 80-45 on Nov. 3, while downing the Colorado School of Mines 73-37 on Nov. 5.

Against UCCS, junior Jackie McFarland had a game high 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots. Center Kara Richards, playing in her first game since 2004-05 after sitting out last season with a fracture in her left foot, had 14 points, on 6-of-9 from the field, eight rebounds and three blocks.

Colorado's back court duo of redshirt freshman Bianca Smith and junior Susie Powers had solid beginnings to their CU careers. Powers dished out a game-high nine assists against just one turnover and had three rebounds and a steal. Smith pitched in eight points with three steals and two assists.

Colorado used a 27-2 run over a 14:51 span of the first half to build a 31-point lead at 40-19 just before halftime. UCCS made just 15 percent from the floor in the first half (4-of-26), while the Buffaloes hit 44 percent (14-32).

Colorado was even better from the field in the second half hitting 58.6 percent (17-of-29), finishing the contest at 50.8 percent (31-of-61). The taller Buffaloes also had 13 steals and out rebounded the Mountain Lions 46-39.

Nine different players scored for Colorado on the night. Senior Jasmina Ilic had nine points. Freshman Aija Putnina had nine points, four rebounds and three steals.

In the game against Colorado Mines, Ilic had game-high 23 points and freshman Putnina added 12. Ilic hit 8-of-13 from the field including 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) from 3-point range. Putnina, was 4-of-8 from the field and added seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.

Pressure defense was the dominant theme as the Buffaloes forced 33 Orediggers' turnovers. CU had 23 turnovers of its own, but offset that with 15 steals.

CU held Mines to just 32.5 percent from the field (13-of-40). In their two exhibition games, the Buffaloes opponents were limited to just 28 percent shooting (27-of-97)

The Buffaloes forced 22 Colorado Mines turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Colorado Mines made only 5-of-17 shots in the first half and the Buffs built a 35-19 halftime lead.

CU trailed 10-9 with just under 15 minutes remaining in the first half, when freshman Candace Rucker sparked an 11-2 Colorado run with five straight points. Rucker sank a lay-up off a pass from center Kara Richards and was fouled by Iva Tomova. Rucker made her free throw attempt and on Mines next trip down the court, she stole the ball from Emily Dalton and drove the length of the floor for the layup giving CU a 14-10 lead.

Colorado held Mines to a pair of free-throws for a 6:37 span as the Buffs lead grew to 25-12. Mines cut the CU lead to nine with 1:41 remaining in the half, but CU closed out on a 7-0 run. Ilic hit a long 3-pointer from the left sandwiched between a short jumper and break-away layup by freshman Whitney Houston. Houston rebounded from slow start on Friday to pitch in nine points along with two assists and two steals.

THE BUFFALOES: Colorado returns eight letterwinners and three starters from its 2005-06 squad that finished 9-21 overall and in 11th place in the Big 12 Conference at 3-13. The Buffaloes will also have seven players on the floor this winter that did not suit up for the 2005-06 campaign: four freshmen, two transfers and Kara Richards, CU's starting center in 2004-05. CU's two top scorers from a year ago return in junior forward Jackie McFarland (17.2 ppg) and senior guard/forward Jasmina Ilic (14.8 ppg). McFarland, a second team All-Big 12 pick, averaged 9.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 2005-06 and is expected to move back to her natural power forward position with the return of Richards. Richards started 26 games at center for the Buffaloes in 2004-05, averaging 9.0 points and 5.3 rebounds as a true freshman. She missed the entire 2005-06 season with a Jones fracture in her left foot. Ilic is CU's top long range threat as she led the Buffs with 55 3-point field goals last year and currently ranks eighth on the school's career list. The Colorado front court is stacked with depth. Senior Anna Nedovic, the most experienced Buff on the roster in terms of games played, has the height at 6-foot-4 to crash the boards and can also shoot from the perimeter. Sophomore forward Caley Dow also has a solid outside shot and was CU's second-best rebounder in 2005-06 (5.0 rpg). Sophomore Hannah Skildum can play both the small forward and shooting guard spot. She played in all 30 games last year, mainly off the bench, and is according to the coaching staff, one of the most improved players on the roster. Senior Courtney Wallace was CU's practice player award winner this past year and is on scholarship for her final collegiate campaign. First-year players in forward Aija Putnina and center Courtney Dunn add to CU's depth.

The guard position is relatively inexperienced, yet there is a ton of reason for optimism. Junior point guard Susie Powers and freshman shooting guard Bianca Smith have been waiting over a year to hit the floor in a Buffs uniform. Both players red shirted last year due to NCAA transfer rules and will be key contributors right away. The Buffaloes will continue to stress defensive improvement from their guard position and certainly have the trio to do it. Junior Lauren Lubin is the lone returning guard with game experience in a CU uniform and has been known as a solid defensive player in the past. Freshmen Whitney Houston and Candace Rucker are two of the quicker players in the program. Houston, a point guard, helped her high school team to the Tennessee State title last year while Rucker, a shooting guard, is an All-State performer out of Northside High School in Memphis.

THE COACH: Kathy McConnell-Miller begins her second season as Colorado's head coach. She was 9-21 in her first season with the Buffaloes and has an overall seven-year head coaching record of 101-109.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Buffaloes will be seeking out several team and individual milestones this season:

? Four wins will give Colorado 600 as a program (596-353) and three wins at the Coors Events Center will give the Buffs 300 in the facility (297-87).

? Jasmina Ilic needs five 3-point field goals to reach 100 in her career, which would be the seventh Buff to hit the century mark. Currently eighth on CU's all time list, matching her output of 55 3-pointers in 2005-06 would put her among the career top five. Anna Nedovic needs three 3-point field goals to reach 50. She has a shot at reaching the career top 10, needing 27 3-pointers which would be a career season high.

? Ilic and Jackie McFarland are both well on pace to reach the 1,000 point mark this season and would become the 19th and 20th Buffs to reach that milestone. They would be the first pair of teammates to hit the mark in the same season since Britt Hartshorn, Jenny Roulier and Mandy Nightingale hit 1,000 within two weeks of each other in November 2001. McFarland needs 196 points, which by using her sophomore season average of 17.2 ppg, she would approach the mark about game 13 (Dec. 30, vs. Houston). Ilic needs 277 points, which by using her junior season average of 14.8 ppg, she would reach around game 19 (Jan. 24, at Oklahoma State).

? McFarland needs just 43 rebounds for 500 in her career and 190 rebounds would put her in the career top 10. She had 277 rebounds as a sophomore. Nedovic needs 152 rebounds to reach 500, she had 182 as a sophomore in 2004-05.

? McFarland is already ninth on CU's career list for blocked shots with 67. She needs 33 to reach 100 and would be just the sixth Buff to reach the century mark.

? McFarland's 20 career double-doubles rank fourth on the CU charts and she needs just three to move into third. Her 20 double-digit rebounding games ranks seventh. She needs 10 double-digit rebounding games this season to move into third on the career charts.

ABOUT THE COMMODORES: Vanderbilt will open its season Sunday against Colorado. The Commodores are coming off a 22-11 season, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt is ranked No. 15 in the USA Today/ESPN/WBCA Coaches Preseason poll and No. 16 in the Associated Press Preseason poll. Senior point guard Dee Davis will lead the charge for the Commodores. A 2006 All-SEC pick, Davis averaged 7.8 points and 6.8 assists per game as a junior and was recently named by as one of the five best point guards in the country. Vanderbilt also returns its top three scorers from 2005-06 in senior forward Carla Thomas (12.4 ppg), senior guard Caroline Williams (12.4 ppg) and junior center Liz Sherwood (12.2 ppg). VU is led by Melanie Balcomb who enters her fifth season with the Commodores with a mark of 93-37.

RANCH REUNION: Colorado point guard Susie Powers will line up against a very familiar opponent on Sunday as Highlands Ranch High School classmate Liz Sherwood is a junior center for the Commodores. Powers and Sherwood led Highlands Ranch to a pair of Colorado Class 5A State Championships (2001-02) and a No. 1 national ranking. Sherwood, the 2003 Rocky Mountain News Class 5A Player of the Year, went to Connecticut for one season before transferring to Vanderbilt. Powers, a two-time Street & Smith honorable mention All-American, played two seasons at Notre Dame before joining Colorado in 2004-05.

SERIES RECORDS: Sunday will be the fourth meeting between Vanderbilt and Colorado with the Commodores claiming wins in the previous three contests. This will be the second meeting in Boulder as VU claimed a 79-69 win in the initial contest between the two teams on Nov. 30, 1991. The series includes an NCAA Tournament game played in Nashville on Mar. 19, 2001, a 65-59 Vandy win.

Kathy McConnell-Miller has never faced Vanderbilt in her seven-year head coaching career.

CU has an overall record of 7-12 against current SEC teams. The last game pitting the Buffs against an SEC squad was in the 2004 Coors Classic Championship game when No. 2 ranked LSU took a 75-44 win.

IN NEED OF A WIN OVER A RANKED TEAM: Colorado will be searching for its first win over a ranked teamin 16 tries dating back to January of 2004. The Buffaloes last win over a ranked opponent was a 69-59 decsion at No. 24 Baylor on Jan. 7, 2004. CU was ranked No. 14 at the time. The last time CU was unranked and defeated a ranked opponent was in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament when the Buffaloes knocked off No. 12 North Carolina 86-67.

BUFFS IN OPENERS: Colorado is 28-5 (.844) all-time in season openers and a whopping 32-1(.970) all-time in home openers. The Buffs' lone loss in a season-opening home game was a 77-63 setback to Michigan on Nov. 21, 1999. CU has won seven straight season debuts and 20 of its last 21 with the lone loss in that span coming at Denver on Nov. 19, 1999.

NOVEMBER SUCCESS: Fast starts in November are common for Colorado. The Buffaloes are 90-25 (.783) all-time in the month of November and a stunning 73-11(.869) at the Coors Events Center. CU is 17-4 at home in November since 2000.

EARLY START: The Nov. 10 start against USF was the third earliest start for the Buffs and the second earliest home game in their 33-year history. CU's earliest start came in season No. 2 as the Buffs dropped an 81-80 decision at Nebraska on Nov. 6, 1976. CU's earliest start at the Coors Events Center is much more recent as the Buffs hosted Oral Roberts in a preseason WNIT game on Nov. 9, 2001, a 78-49 CU win.

BUFFS PICKED 11TH: CU was picked to finish 11th in the annual Big 12 Coaches Preseason Poll. The Buffaloes received 26 points, an improvement from the 14 points received a year ago when the CU was picked to finish last. CU was 9-21 overall in 2005-06 and finished 11th in the Big 12 race with a 3-13 mark.

Defending league champion Oklahoma was picked to repeat its title receiving all 11 possible first place votes for a total of 121 points. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own team. Big 12 Southern Division teams dominated the upper half of the poll, taking the top four spots. Texas A&M was picked second with 107 points, followed by Texas (101) and Baylor (94).

Iowa State came in fifth with 68 points, just edging out Nebraska which was picked sixth with 66. Kansas State and Texas Tech tied for seventh with 57 points followed by Missouri (43), Kansas (36), CU (26) and Oklahoma State (16).

TOUGH SCHEDULE: Colorado once again faces a tough schedule with no less than 17 games against 2006 NCAA or WNIT tournament teams. The Buffaloes will host perennial NCAA women's powers Southern California and Vanderbilt during the non-conference season as well as region rival Colorado State. Baylor, Texas Tech and Oklahoma come to Boulder this year out of the Big 12 South along with the Buffs' usual Big 12 North opponents.

HOME AT THE CECC: Colorado is traditionally tough at home with a 297-87 all-time record at the Coors Events/Conference Center (.773). The Buffaloes have won 10 or more games in a season at the CECC in 18 of the previous 28 years including five undefeated seasons (1980-83, 1992-94). At 7-9 in 2005-06, CU finished its home season with a below .500 mark for just the third time in the 28-year history of the CECC.

BUFFS ON TV: Colorado's schedule features nine games that will be televised either regionally or nationally by Fox Sports Net. Two games are part of the Big 12's national package with FSN: Sunday, Jan. 28, at Missouri and Saturday, Feb. 10, at home against Nebraska. FSN Rocky Mountain will televise six CU home games beginning with the regular season opener against San Francisco on Friday, Nov. 10. FSN Midwest will televise CU's game at Kansas State on Wed., Feb. 14, which could potentially be picked up by FSN Rocky Mountain as well.

UP NEXT: Colorado will continue its season-opening homestand by hosting California State University-Northridge on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 1 p.m. in the Coors Events Conference Center.