Buffs Rally to Advance in WNIT
BOULDER—Senior forward Jackie McFarland played perhaps the best game of her career—and made sure it wasn't her last—in carrying the University of Colorado women's basketball team to a thrilling 64-58 come-from-behind victory over the Villanova Wildcats Thursday night, putting the Buffaloes in the Elite Eight of the 2008 Women's NIT.
McFarland scored a season-high 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, keeping the Buffs afloat during a game when CU fell behind early, and head coach Kathy McConnell-Miller may have found a closer in freshman forward Brittany Spears, who scored 11 of her 13 points in the last 3:16 of the game to put away the Wildcats.
"I think for the rest of the night and tomorrow people are going to ask me, "how did that happen?' McConnell-Miller said. "The only thing that I can say is that Brittany Spears decided to play for the last three minutes."
Behind 55-44 late in the game, Colorado outscored Villanova 20-3 over the last 5:42, sparked by three straight field goals—two of them three-pointers—by Spears.
"The last three minutes I played better [overall] and played better defensively," Spears said. "I made some big shots and that was the difference (for my confidence). It hit me when we were losing and the conditioning kicked in."
The Wildcats, who had made an impressive 22-of-41 field goals (53.7 percent) through most of the game, missed their last nine shots of the contest.
The Buffs came out of the gates cold in the first half, missing their first eight shots of the game before McFarland converted on a lay up 4:44 into the game. Villanova forward Stacie Witman provided all of the early scoring for the Wildcats, converting her first four field goals, including three behind the arc, to put her team up 11-2 in the early stages. Witman would end up scoring 13 of Villanova's first 15 points and finished with a team-high 20 points in the game.
McFarland basically carried the Buffs by herself for much of the game as Colorado persevered through a poor shooting performance, especially in the first half when CU made just 10-of-32 field goals. McFarland, who surpassed 1,900 career points in her career (1,910; second all-time), scored 10 of the Buffs' first 12 points in each half to keep them within striking distance. She also set a school record for free throws made in a game, converting on 15-of-16 on the night.
"Everyone was so determined; our motto was 'You have to find a way,'" McFarland said. "They were taking away our outside shots, so we had to go with what worked. Once Brittany started hitting those shots it made it easier on us."
Timely baskets by Colorado prevented Villanova to make any significant runs after the 11-2 setback to start the game. The Buffs also didn't turn the ball over in the first half, and for only the third time all season they did not put their opponent on the free throw line in the first half.
Villanova played a conservative game during much of the second half, milking much of the play clock each possession; but it was the Buffs who found themselves running the clock down in the final minute.
"I wish we could have come back sooner but it was a good finish," said McFarland, who jumped on the scorers table to celebrate with the home crowd after the final buzzer. "That was the most amazing moment in my career—the Coors Events Center crowd was just amazing."
The Buffs advance to host Texas Christian in the fourth round of the Women's NIT on Sunday. Tip off is scheduled for 2:00 pm., at the Coors Events Center.
NOTE: The University of Colorado at Boulder campus is closed on Friday, March 28. Tickets for Sunday's game are available for fans by clicking here, calling 303-49-BUFFS and pressing option 1, or visiting TicketsWest outlets located at front range King Soopers stores. Fans who are looking for a specific seat may request that seat when they call or visit TicketsWest if that seat is still available.