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Buffs Entertain Southern Utah Friday

Dec 27, 2007

THE GAME: The University of Colorado continues its five-game homestand to close out the nonconference schedule by hosting Southern Utah University on Friday, Dec. 28, at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events/Conference Center.

BROADCAST: Friday's game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Net Rocky Mountain. Tim Ring will have the play-by-play and he is joined by former CU coach Ceal Barry with the color commentary. All Colorado women's basketball regular and post season games are broadcast live on KKZN 760 AM, Boulder's Progressive Talk station. Mike Rice, in his second year, will have the play-by-play and he is joined by Carol Callan of USA Basketball with the color commentary. Live internet audio can be accessed through Yahoo! Sports.

THE BUFFALOES: Colorado has won seven straight and is 8-2 overall with both marks being the team's best since the 2003-04 season which was also the Buffs' last appearance in the NCAA Tournament. With their recent success, the Buffaloes are beginning to gain some national recognition in the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today/WBCA Coaches polls. Colorado claimed its first national ranking since 2004, jumping to the No. 25 spot in the Dec. 24, AP Top 25 Poll. For the third-straight week CU is in the "receiving votes" category in the WBCA poll. Colorado had spent the previous two weeks as the first team listed under "others receiving votes" in the AP poll, before making its move on Dec. 24.

Senior All-America candidate Jackie McFarland leads the Buffaloes at 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and with a field goal percentage of .564. McFarland, who is one of only three players in CU history with 1,400 points and 800 rebounds, ranks second on the team in assists with 30 and is third in free-throw percentage at .774. The All-Big 12 forward once again can be found among the Top 10 in most league statistical categories ranking second in minutes, fifth in scoring and rebounding, and seventh in field-goal and free-throw percentage.

Freshman Brittany Spears continues to have a solid start to her collegiate career has she ranks second on the team in scoring (13.3 ppg) and is third in rebounding (7.2 rpg). Her scoring and rebounding numbers are also tops among all freshmen in the Big 12 Conference so far this season while she is second in steals (2.4 spg) and fourth in assists (2.0 apg).

Senior guard Susie Powers has taken control of the Colorado offense from the point guard position and has been solid in all phases of the game. She is averaging 4.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and a team-best 4.3 assists per game. Powers, who had a career-high nine assists in the win over Wyoming, leads the Big 12 in asssist-to-turnover ratio at 3.1 and ranked third in the NCAA through games of Dec. 16. She has 43 assists against only 14 turnovers this season. Powers has 35 assists in the last six games (5.8 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 seven games and has responded with a pair of double-doubles and five double-digit rebounding games. She is averaging 7.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks as a starter. Putnina ranks sixth in rebounding, ninth in blocked shots (1.5 bpg) and is tied for 10th in free-throw percentage (.763) on the Big 12 charts. Skildum, who has started the last six games, is averaging 7.5 points and 2.5 steals over the past two contests.

Colorado is 6-0 with its current starting line up of Powers-Skildum-Spears-McFarland-Putnina.

It's not just the starters, as the bench has been big too. Sophomore Bianca Smith is emerging into a formidable "Sixth-Woman" candidate averaging 9.8 points off the bench for the Buffs. During CU's seven-game wining streak she has been the team's third-leading scorer at 11.7 points per game while hitting 41 percent from 3-point range (21-of-51). Smith was named Big 12 Player of the Week on Dec. 10 after averaging 19.0 points and hitting 57 percent from the field in games against No. 22 (AP)/21 (WBCA) Wyoming and No. 20/17 Vanderbilt. Whitney Houston and Britney Blythe have also seen extended minutes in the Colorado backcourt.

Juniors Caley Dow and Kara Richards have been CU's first front court players off the bench. Dow has played double-digit minutes in four of the last six games recording two points, two steals and four rebounds against Texas Southern. Richards is coming off her best game of the season as she had a season-high 11 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and seven rebounds in the win over Dartmouth.

Colorado is averaging 67.2 points per game, while the Buffs defense is holding opponents to 54.1 per contest. The Buffaloes have been tough on the boards early on, enjoying a +9.6 rebound margin, thanks to the Buffs' ability to keep teams off the boards. CU opponents have averaged just 31.9 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. CU has outrebounded its opponents in all 10 games this season and has outrebounded the opposition in 14 straight games dating back to last season. The Buffs have not been outrebounded in 16 games (Colorado and Baylor had 35 rebounds each in their game on Feb. 21, 2007).

The Buffaloes currently rank fourth in the nation and top the Big 12 Conference in 3-point field goals (8.5 3's mpg) and are first in the league in free-throw percentage (.737), fourth in scoring defense (54.1 ppg) and fifth in rebounding defense and blocked shots (5.0 bpg). CU has been sharing the ball well of late averaging 15.7 assists per game and earlier this season netted 20 or more assists in three straight contests for the first time since the 2002-03 season.

ABOUT THE THUNDERBIRDS: Southern Utah is 2-8 overall coming off its most recent game, an 82-57 setback at Idaho State. The Thunderbirds are 0-6 on the road this season and have lost 29 straight on the road dating back to the 2005-06 season. SUU is averaging just 54.3 points per game while giving up 72.7 points per contest. The Thunderbirds have had trouble with turnovers, giving it up an average of 22.3 times per game, 8.7 more per game than their opponents.

Senior forward Anne Westwood, a 2007 second team All-Mid Continent Conference pick, leads Southern Utah with a season double-double average of 12.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Senior guard Erin Heuett is second on the team in scoring at 8.7 points per game and pulls down four rebounds a contest. Freshman forward Challis Pascucci is SUU's second leading rebounder at 5.9 per game and third leading scorer at 7.3.

SERIES RECORDS: This will be the first ever meeting between Colorado and Southern Utah. The Buffaloes are 7-1 all-time against current Summit League teams (formerly the Mid-Continent Conference). Kathy McConnell-Miller has never faced Southern Utah as a head coach.

DEFENSE WINS: Colorado has enjoyed some impressive defensive numbers this season.

The Buffaloes have held four opponents under 50 points this season; 29-vs. Texas Southern, 43-vs. Darmouth, 47-at Colorado State and 48-at San Francisco. CU had held their opponent under 50 points just three times total in the previous three seasons. CU's 2003-04 NCAA Tournament team held four opponents under 50 points the entire season.

CU has held its last two opponents -- Dartmouth and Texas Southern - to a combined 25 percent from the field (27-of-109)

Against Dartmouth, Colorado had 13 blocked shots, the second highest single-game total in team history, trailing only the school record 16 set against Sam Houston in a 99-60 win on Dec. 14, 2000.

Colorado had a historic performance from a defensive perspective against Texas Southern. The Buffaloes held the Lady Tigers to just 29 points, which ties for the fourth-lowest total in team history (equals a 79-29 win over Iowa State on Feb. 19, 1993). It was just the fifth time in CU history the Buffs have held an opponent under 30 points (the ISU game in 1993 being the last). CU allowed just 13 second-half points, tying for the second-lowest second-half total in team history (also done in the ISU game and against Utah State on Jan. 28, 1981). The Buffaloes forced Texas Southern into 32 turnovers, the most since forcing 35 against Detroit Mercy on Nov. 24, 2002.

SMITH NAMED BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Sophomore guard Bianca Smith was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week on Dec. 10. Smith captured her first career Big 12 weekly honor and the first for the Buffaloes since Jackie McFarland was named Player of the Week on Nov. 13, 2006.

Smith averaged 19 points, two assists and two rebounds off the bench while leading Colorado to wins over No. 22 (AP)/21 (WBCA) Wyoming and at No. 20/17 Vanderbilt. Colorado broke a 23-game losing streak against ranked teams with its 69-55 win over Wyoming on Dec. 5. The Buffaloes then made it wins in back-to-back games over ranked teams for the first time since the 2002 NCAA Tournament with a 62-51 triumph at Vanderbilt on Dec. 9.

Against Wyoming, Smith scored 16 points on 5-of-8 from the floor with three assists as Colorado broke a three-game losing streak against the Cowgirls. She was 4-of-7 from 3-point range and her final two from downtown were clutch as they provided the answer to a 14-3 Wyoming run that cut the CU lead to just one with 5:11 remaining.

Smith had an even bigger game against Vanderbilt. She had a career-high 22 points on 7-of-14 from the field with three rebounds, one steal and one assist as the Buffs handed the Commodores just their second loss in their last 23 home games. Smith scored 13 of CU's first 17 points to erase an early 8-0 Vanderbilt lead, and hit four straight free throws in the final seconds of the game to close it out.

RANK STREAK IS OVER: Colorado had its biggest week in early December in several years in terms of success against ranked teams.

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.

The Buffaloes kept the momentum going four days later with a 62-51 win at No. 20/17 Vanderbilt. The win gives CU's its first two-game win streak against ranked teams since knocking off No. 23 Washington and No. 24 Baylor in 2003-04. It's the first pair of wins over two ranked teams in back-to-back games since the 2002 NCAA Tournament when the Buffs defeated No. 22/24 LSU in the second round and No. 5 Stanford in the Sweet 16. It was Colorado's first win on the road over a ranked opponent since defeating No. 24 Baylor 69-59 in Waco, Texas, on Jan. 7. 2004. It was CU's first win over a ranked opponent as an unranked team since defeating No. 12 Texas in Austin, 60-56, on Feb. 26, 1997.

RANKING OF OUR OWN: A seven-game winning streak including back-to-back wins over ranked teams have earned the Buffaloes the No. 25 ranking in the Dec. 24 AP Top 25 poll, their first national ranking since finishing No. 17 (AP)/No. 24 (WBCA) in the final 2003-04 polls. Colorado has a rich tradition in the AP poll. This ranking marks CU's 155th appearance in the AP poll since 1980. The Buffs were ranked in 75 straight polls from Mar. 15, 1992 to Dec. 9, 1996 and 30 straight from Jan. 22, 2001 to Mar. 22, 2002. Colorado, receiving 91 votes, had been listed first among other teams receiving votes for the past two polls before making the jump Monday. The Buffaloes received votes in the WBCA Coaches' Poll, for the third-straight week.

With Colorado being ranked by the AP Poll, Buffs head coach Kathy McConnell-Miller becomes the 22nd person in NCAA Division I women's history to play for and coach an AP ranked team. McConnell-Miller was a four-year letterwinner at Virgina (1986-90) where she played in four NCAA Tournaments with the Cavaliers including a pair of Sweet 16 appearances and the 1988 Elite Eight.

REVERSING ROAD WOES: Colorado is 3-1 on the road this season and has won two straight for the first time since defeating Pacific and Washington on the same road trip in December 2004. The three wins are one better than 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. Colorado broke Vanderbilt's 10-game home winning streak and handed the Commodores just their second loss in 23 home games, the other coming last season against eventual national champion Tennessee.

3-POINTERS FALLING: Colorado has made and attempted more 3-pointers through 10 games than it has in any other season in team history, and by a wide margin. The Buffaloes are 85-of-258 through 10 contests (.329). CU's 85 3-pointers are 24 more than the previous best 10-game total of 61 in 2003-04 and the 258 attempts are 103 more than the previous 10-game high of 155 in 2005-06.

Colorado leads the Big 12 Conference and ranks fourth in the nation with 8.5 3-point field goals 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 had a string of 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. 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. Nine different players on the CU roster have at least two 3-point field goals and eight have attempted at least 10. Sophomore Bianca Smith leads the team with 23 with 19 of them coming in the last six games. Freshman Brittany Spears is right behind Smith with 19 and senior Susie Powers has 13. Junior Hannah Skildum has eight.

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.

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.

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 four of the last eight games and she ranks second in CU history in career double-doubles with 41. Her 42 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 855. She needs 41 rebounds to pass Sandy Bean (1978-82) for third pace on CU's all-time list.

McFarland needs just 12 points to become the ninth player in team history with 1,500 career points and needs 14 to pass Erin Carson (1984-88) for eighth on CU's all-time scoring list. McFarland is third on CU's all-time for free throws made with 431. She is 72 away from catching Bridget Turner (1985-99) for the all-time mark of 494. She ranks 13th in field goals made (519) and 15th in minutes played (3,055).

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 312-93 all-time record at the Coors Events/Conference Center (.770). 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 on Sunday, Dec. 30, to face Jacksonville State University at 2 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.