Buffs Visit #20/17 Vanderbilt Sunday
THE GAME: The University of Colorado will travel to its last non-conference road game of the season as the Buffaloes take on No. 20 (AP)/17 (WBCA) ranked Vanderbilt on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 1 p.m. MST at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville, Tenn.
BROADCAST: All Colorado women's basketball regular and post season games are broadcast live on KKZN 760 AM, Boulder's Progressive Talk station. Tim Smile, who handed over the microphone to Mike Rice in 2006 after more than a decade as the voice of CU women's basketball, will make a cameo appearance on Sunday and will be joined by long-time radio partner Carol Callan of USA Basketball with the color commentary. Live internet audio can be accessed through Yahoo! Sports. Vanderbilt's official website, www.vucommodores.com, will provide a free video stream of the game.
THE BUFFALOES: Colorado is 5-2, equalling its start from last season, and riding a four-game winning streak for the first time since winning five in a row during the tail end of the 2004-05 season's non-conference schedule. The Buffaloes are coming off a 69-55 home win over No. 21 (AP)/22 (WBCA) ranked Wyoming which broke a 23-game losing streak against ranked opponents. Colorado will be looking to start another streak on the "W" side of the ledger against ranked teams. CU held a two-game winning streak against ranked teams early in the 2003-04 season when they beat No. 23 Washington and No. 24 Baylor, but the Buffaloes haven't defeated ranked teams in back-to-back games since the 2002 NCAA Tournament when they knocked off No. 22/24 LSU in the second round and No. 5 Stanford in the Sweet 16. CU will also be searching for its third road win of the season after compiling just one road victory each of the last two campaigns.
Senior All-America candidate Jackie McFarland leads the Buffaloes in scoring at 18.4 points per game and field goal percentage at .622 while her 8.9 rebounds per contest rank second on the team. McFarland, who is one of only three players in CU history with 1,400 points and 800 rebounds, also leads the team in free-throw shooting at 74 percent (of those with more than two attempts per game) and ranks second in assists at 3.3 per outing. The All-Big 12 forward ranks third on the league charts in scoring and rebounding so far this year and is also fifth in 3-point field-goal percentage (.500), 11th in free-throw percentage (.738) and tied for 13th in assists (3.3 apg).
McFarland has three double-doubles in seven games. Her last, a 17-point, 10-rebound effort against Colorado State, gave her 40 in her career, second on CU's all-time list. She scored 20 or more points in four of seven games this season including a game-high 21 in the win over Wyoming.
Senior guard Susie Powers has stepped up her game over the past four contests. After being held scoreless for the first three games of the season, Powers has averaged 9.5 points, 6.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds over the last four.
Powers, who had a career-high nine assists in the win over Wyoming, leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 5.2 as she has 31 assists against only six turnovers this season. Powers has 23 assists in the last three games (7.7 apg).
Freshman Brittany Spears continues to have a solid start to her collegiate career has she ranks second on the team in scoring (14.1 ppg) and is third in rebounding (7.3 rpg). Her scoring numbers and rebounding numbers are also tops among all freshmen in the Big 12 Conference so far this season while she is second in steals (2.1 spg) and assists (2.7 apg).
Sophomore Aija Putnina and junior Hannah Skildum have played their way into the starting lineup after coming off the bench to begin the season. Putnina has started the last four games and has responded with a pair of double-doubles and four-straight double-digit rebounding games. She is averaging 9.5 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks as a starter. Putnina has vaulted into second place on the league rebounding chart with a team-best 9.4 per game. Skildum, who has started the past three contests, is averaging 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds over the last five.
Sophomore Bianca Smith has been one of the first players off the bench for CU this season and is third on the team in scoring at 8.4 points per game. Her production is even higher over the last three games where she's averaged 12.3 points and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 42 percent from 3-point range (10-of-24). Whitney Houston and Britney Blythe have also seen extended minutes in the Colorado backcourt. Houston's minutes were limited against CSU and Wyoming, but she had a season-high four assists and two rebounds against UNC. Blythe broke a two-game scoreless streak against CSU by hitting a 3-pointer to go along with a career-best three rebounds.
Juniors Caley Dow and Kara Richards have been CU's first front court players off the bench. Dow has played double-digit minutes in the last three games and had a seven-rebound performance against CSU the most she's had since she recorded seven against Cal State Fullerton last season. Richards is shooting 50 percent from the floor and had a season-best seven points against Northern Colorado.
Colorado is averaging just a hair under 70 points per game, 69.9 to be exact, while the Buffs defense is holding opponents to 59.7 per contest. The Buffaloes have been tough on the boards early on, enjoying a +11 rebound margin, a number that ranks 16th nationally, thanks to the Buffs' ability to keep teams off the boards. CU opponents have averaged just 30.7 per game including a season-low 25 for Wyoming. The Buffaloes on the other hand have had some big number rebound games this season, including 58 against Colorado State, the most by a CU team since it grabbed 59 against Bowling Green on Nov. 23, 2001, and the most on the road since it had 59 at Oklahoma State on Jan. 28, 1983.
The Buffaloes currently top the Big 12 Conference in 3-point field goals (9.6 3's mpg) and are second in free throws at 72 percent. CU's has been sharing the ball well of late averaging 16.7 assists per game and have netted 20 or more assists in three straight contests for the first time since the 2002-03 season.
ABOUT THE COMMODORES: No. 20 (AP)/17 (WBCA) Vanderbilt is 8-2 overall after defeating Western Kentucky 75-54 on Dec. 6, at Memorial Gymnasium. The Commodores are a perfect 6-0 at home this season and have won 10 straight and 21 of 22 in the friendly confines since the beginning of last season, with the lone loss coming to defending national champion Tennessee.
Junior wing Christina Wirth leads Vanderbilt at 14.2 points per game and is also averaging 4.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Senior post and Castle Rock, Colo., native Liz Sherwood is second in scoring at 13.8 points per contest and is averaging a nation-leading 74 percent from the field (63-of-85). Junior guard Jennifer Risper is averaging 9.5 points per game and a team-best 6.4 rebounds a contest.
Vanderbilt as a team shoots the ball extremely well, hitting 49 percent from the floor, good for a top 10 national average. The Commodores average 76 points a game while holding opponents to just 58 per outing. Vanderbilt hasn't allowed an opponent to reach 60 points on its home gym this season. The VU defense holds opponents to 36 percent from the field and forces nearly 22 turnovers per game.
SERIES RECORDS: This will be the fifth meeting between Colorado and Vanderbilt with the Commodores winning the previous four including an 81-76 decision in Boulder on Nov. 12, 2006. This will be CU's third trip to Vanderbilt. Both previous trips came in the 2001 calendar year, the first a 65-59 VU win in the second round of the 2001 NCAA Tournament and the second, a 72-51 setback on Nov. 15, 2001.
Kathy McConnell-Miller is 0-1 against Vanderbilt in her career as a head coach.
The Buffaloes are 7-13 all-time against the SEC and have lost their last two since defeating LSU in the second round of the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
FAMILIAR FACES: Colorado senior guard Susie Powers and Director of Basketball Operations Ann Strother were high schoold teammates with Vanderbilt senior post Liz Sherwood leading Highlands Ranch to back-to-back Colorado Class 5A state titles in 2001-02. Strother and Sherwood were teammates at Connecticut for one year (2003-04) before Sherwood transferred to Vanderbilt. Colorado sophomore Whitney Houston is heading back to her home state as she was a Miss Tennessee Basketball finalist for 2006 Tennessee state champion Hillcrest High School in Memphis. Vanderbilt freshman Hannah Tuomi is a native of Thornton, Colo., and a 2007 graduate of Horizon High School.
RANK STREAK IS OVER: Colorado's 69-55 win over No. 21/22 Wyoming snapped a 23-game Buffs' losing streak to ranked teams. The Buffaloes last win over a ranked opponent had been a 69-59 decision at No. 24 Baylor on Jan. 7, 2004 where CU was ranked No. 14 at the time. The win was Colorado's first against a ranked team while being unranked since knocking off No. 12 North Carolina 86-67 in the second round of the 2003 NCAA Tournament. Wyoming is the highest ranked team Colorado has defeated since edging No. 15/16 Notre Dame, 67-63 in overtime on Nov. 15. CU senior Susie Powers was involved in that game, but for the other side as she was a true freshman reserve guard for the Fighting Irish.
REVERSING ROAD WOES: Colorado is 2-1 on the road this season with wins at San Francisco and Colorado State. The two wins equal the team win total on the road for the last two seasons combined (1-10 in 2006-07 and 1-9 in 2004-05). CU's 82-47 win over Colorado State was significant on several fronts. The 35-point margin was the Buffs' highest on the road since a 70-35 win over Kansas on Jan. 16, 2002 and it was also their largest win over Colorado State (regardless of venue) since a 112-48 win on Nov. 16, 1979. The 82 points were the most CU has scored on an opponents home court since the Buffs' last trip to Moby Arena, an 86-83 loss to the Rams on Nov. 30, 2005. With Vanderbilt up next, the Buffaloes will look to win two straight on the road for the first time since defeating Pacific and Washington on the same road trip in December 2004.
3-POINTERS FALLING: Colorado has made and attempted more 3-pointers through seven games than it has in any other season in team history, and by a wide margin. The Buffaloes are 67-of-186 through seven contests (.360). CU's 67 3-pointers are 25 more than the previous best seven-game total of 42 in 2003-04 and the 186 attempts are 63 more than the previous six-game high of 123 in 2005-06.
Colorado leads the Big 12 Conference and ranks second in the nation with 9.6 3-point field goals per game. Villanova leads the NCAA at 10.8 per game. The Buffaloes had a season-high 14 against Colorado State, the second best single-game total in team history (CU had 16 against Buffalo on Jan. 3, 2004). CU has had 10 or more 3-pointers in four straight games for the first time in team history. CU had 10 3-pointers against Wyoming and Northern Colorado and 13 against Rice. The Buffaloes have been particularly efficient the last two games hitting 45 percent from long range (24-of-53). Against UNC, the Buffs set a school record for 3-point field goal attempts in one half with 21 in the first stanza and finished the game with 36 attempts, just one shy of the school record of 37 set against Buffalo on Jan. 3, 2004.
Individually, it hasn't been one player doing the damage. Freshman Brittany Spears has a team-high 17 3-pointers and his hitting 37 percent. Sophomore Bianca Smith is close behind with 14 and senior Susie Powers has 12. Senior Jackie McFarland and junior Hannah Skildum each have six.
THE COACH: Kathy McConnell-Miller is in her third season as Colorado's head coach. She is 27-40 with the Buffaloes and has an overall eight-year head coaching record of 118-128.
McFARLAND NOMINATED FOR SENIOR CLASS AWARD: Senior forward Jackie McFarland has been named one of 30 nationwide candidates for the 2008 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award.
The award ? presented annually to the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete of the Year in eight sports ? focuses on the "Four C's" of classroom, character, community and competition. An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, the award was launched during the 2001-02 season to honor the attributes of college basketball seniors who remain committed to their university and pursue the many rewards that a senior season and complete college education brings.
A native of Derby, Kan., McFarland is a two-time Academic All-American sporting a 3.89 GPA. She is working on a concurrent degree program which will allow her to earn her MBA while completing her undergraduate degree in accounting. McFarland won CU's Scholar-Athlete Award in the spring of 2007 for having the highest GPA in her class. McFarland is a three-year team captain and is actively involved in CU's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. SAAC is the governing body for student-athletes at CU which assists in the development and implementation of programs that motivate student-athletes to strive for and be recognized for academic excellence and community involvement.
From the list of 30 nominees for each gender, a national media committee will select 10 finalists to be announced in January. Those 10 names will then be put to ballot for a nationwide vote during the NCAA Tournament in March. Fan balloting will be coupled with votes from coaches and media to determine the male and female recipients.
CAPTAINS NAMED: Seniors Jackie McFarland and Susie Powers and junior Caley Dow will serve as team captains for the 2007-08 season. McFarland is a captain for a third straight season, Powers is in her second year as captain and Dow is a captain for the first time. CU team captains are voted on by players prior to the first regular season contest each year.
PITERNIECE COULD SEE DEBUT: Junior forward Dina Piterniece, who has missed the first seven games of the season recovering from a broken toe suffered during practice on Oct. 19, returned to light practice drills Monday after receiving treatment for chronic plantar fasciitis, which played a role in the original toe injury. She expected to make a significant contribution to the CU lineup this season after a two-year career at Odessa where her teams went 66-3, winning the 2007 junior college national championship and a second place finish in 2006.
McFARLAND PRESEASON ALL-BIG 12; BUFFS PICKED 11TH: Senior forward Jackie McFarland has been named to the 2007-08 Preseason All-Big 12 Conference Women's Basketball team by a vote of league coaches.
McFarland is CU's second preseason All-Big 12 honoree as former Buffaloes standout Erin Scholz was named to the 1996-97 squad. She joins Nebraska forward Kelsey Griffin, Oklahoma center Courtney Paris and Texas A&M guards A'Quonesia Franklin and Takia Starks on the five-member preseason team. All five players were first team All-Big 12 picks last winter.
A native of Derby, Kan., McFarland topped the Big 12 and ranked third in the nation in field-goal accuracy in 2006-07 at 61 percent. She was second in the Big 12 in scoring (17.8 ppg) and rebounding (10.8 rpg) and led the league in minutes at 36.4 per game.
Despite returning eight players from a team that finished tied for seventh last season, the Buffaloes were picked to finish 11th in the Big 12 in 2007-08 in annual preseason coaches poll.
Defending co-champion Texas A&M was picked to win the 2008 title with seven first place votes and 117 points overall, just edging out the league's other co-champion, Oklahoma who had the other five first place votes and 115 points. The Big South held down the top five spots in the poll as Baylor was third with 97 points followed by Texas (86) and Oklahoma State (66). Iowa State was the top North school (64) followed by Nebraska (56), Kansas State and Texas Tech (54 each), Kansas (43), Colorado (29) and Missouri (11).
MORE NUMBERS FOR McFARLAND: Jackie McFarland has had double-doubles in three of the last five games to become the second player in CU history to reach 40 career double-doubles. Her 41 career double-digit rebounding games are third on the CU career charts.
McFarland is the fourth player in Colorado history with 800 career rebounds, and now stands at 832. She needs 64 rebounds to pass Sandy Bean (1978-82) for third pace on CU's all-time list. McFarland is the ninth player in team history to reach 1,400 career points and now has 1,449 in 94 career games (15.4 ppg). McFarland is the fifth player in school history to pass 400 free throws made (414). She needs seven free throws to pass Mandy Nightingale (1998-02) for fourth place and is 89 away from catching Bridget Turner (1985-99) for the all-time mark of 494. She ranks 13th in field goals made (508) and 15th in minutes played (2,959).
TOUGH SCHEDULE: Colorado once again faces a tough schedule with no less than 16 games against 2007 NCAA or WNIT tournament teams. The Buffaloes will travel to perennial NCAA women's powers Southern California and Vanderbilt during the non-conference season as well as region rival Colorado State. Colorado will host 2007 WNIT Champion Wyoming and will also see Rice, Clemson and Pepperdine at the Coors Events Center. Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Texas 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 310-93 all-time record at the Coors Events/Conference Center (.769). The Buffaloes have won 10 or more games in a season at the CECC in 19 of the previous 29 years including, 2007-08 when the Buffaloes went 11-5 at home with four of the five losses coming to ranked teams. The Buffaloes have enjoyed five undefeated seasons (1980-83, 1992-94) at the CECC.
BUFFS ON TV: Colorado's schedule features 10 games that will be televised either regionally or nationally, nine of which will be carried by Fox Sports Net. Two games are part of the Big 12's national package with FSN: Sunday, Jan. 13 against Iowa State at home and Saturday, Jan. 26, at Texas Tech. FSN Rocky Mountain will televise six CU home games beginning with Wyoming on Dec. 5. FSN Midwest will televise CU's game at Kansas State on Jan. 19, which could potentially be picked up by FSN Rocky Mountain as well. CU's game at Colorado State on Dec. 1 will be televised by The Mtn. Network.
UP NEXT: Colorado will return home to host Texas Southern University on Friday, Dec. 14, at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events/Conference Center.