Buffs Return To Action Against UMKC
THE GAME: The University of Colorado will host the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Saturday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events/Conference Center.
BROADCAST: Saturday's game can be heard live on KKZN AM 760 with Mike Rice delivering the play-by-play. Live video streaming of Saturday's battle will be available to BuffsTV subscribers at CUBuffs.com. Live internet audio of all CU basketball games is available through Yahoo! Sports.
OPENING TIP: Colorado is 22-11 all-time in its first game back from fall semester finals and has won two straight and nine of its last 11 with the extended time off. The Buffaloes have not played since Dec. 9.
THE BUFFALOES: Colorado is 3-4 overall and playing in its first game since a 77-40 loss at Seton Hall on Dec. 9. The Buffaloes traditional break during finals week was unexpectedly a little longer then planned as a game scheduled on Dec. 12 with Southern University in Boulder was cancelled on Dec. 11 after a rare snow storm left 3-5 inches in the Baton Rouge, La., area, stranding the Jaguars at home. Southern was not able to find alternate travel plans. The game will not be rescheduled for this season.
Now that finals have been completed and grades are being calculated, the Buffaloes return to the Coors Events Center where they have won nine of their last 12 games overall and 14 of their last 17 against nonconference opponents.
Sophomore Brittany Spears leads Colorado and ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring and 15th in NCAA Division I at 20.1 points per game. She has two double-doubles this season, most recently scoring a game-high 25 points and 12 rebounds in the win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Dec. 2. She has the highest individual scoring output in the Big 12 this season, notching 36 against UMass in the first round of the Coors Classic, a Classic record and tying for the third best total in team history (Jasmina Ilic scored 36 against Nebraska on Jan. 4, 2006). Spears, who was named to the Coors Classic All-Tournament Team, ranks seventh in the Big 12 in minutes (31.0 mpg) and 3-point field goals (1.7 3mpg), ninth in rebounding (7.9 rpg), 11th in 3-point field goal percentage (.300), 12th in field goal percentage (.469) and free throw percentage (.690) and 15th in steals (1.6 spg).
Senior center Kara Richards is off to her best start since her freshman year, averaging 11.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 0.8 blocks over the first seven games. Richards tops CU in field goal percentage at .593 (32-of-54) and would rank among the leaders of the Big 12, but she doesn't have the minimum five field goals made per game to qualify. She's eclipsed the 20 point mark twice this season, including a career-high 25 in the win over Colorado State, which included a personal best 9-of-9 performance from the free throw line. Richards is just 16 points away from passing her junior season point total of 97 in 30 games.
Junior guard Bianca Smith has averaged 7.7 points and 5.9 rebounds in the early season totals. The scoring is not a surprise for Smith, but the rebound numbers are vastly improved. She held a career 1.7 rebound per game average coming into this season, but had a personal-best 12 rebounds -- all defensive -- against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, her first double-digit rebounding total. She has six or more rebounds in six of her last eight games, dating back to last season.
True freshman guard Alyssa Fressle has given the Buffaloes good all-around play. Fressle leads all Big 12 players in steals at 2.7 per game and tops all conference freshmen in scoring (9.1 ppg) and assists (3.3 apg). Overall she is 10th in the Big 12 in assists and is 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.9). She logged a team season-high eight assists in the win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, filling out the stat sheet quite nicely by adding eight points, four steals and three rebounds.
Sophomore point guard Kelly Jo Mullaney is averaging 5.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. She had six points and three assists in the loss at Seton Hall.
Colorado's bench, albeit short due to injuries, has been very productive. Freshman forward Julie Seabrook has averaged 3.1 points and 3.9 rebounds while hitting 9-of-16 from the field. Senior Hannah Skildum recorded 10 points on 4-of-7 from the field against Drexel for her best scoring output since she had 11 against Siena in 2007 and is CU's leading scorer off the bench, averaging 3.6 points and 2.9 rebounds per game. Sophomore point guard Britney Blythe had her most productive game of the season at Seton Hall scoring a season-high seven points, hitting 3-of-5 from the field, and grabbing three rebounds. Sophomore center Courtney Dunn is averaging 3.5 points and 3.0 rebounds and is tied for the team lead with six blocked shots.
Colorado is averaging 66 points per game while allowing 64.6 to opponents. The Buffaloes are shooting 41 percent from the field and 64 percent from the free throw line. Colorado's field goal percentage defense has been good, limiting opponents to just 37 percent from the floor and 27 percent from 3-point range, but opponents are enjoying a 6.1 rebound per game edge over the Buffaloes.
Colorado's numbers are significanly better at home where the Buffaloes are 3-2. CU is averaging 75 points per contest while holding opponents to just under 60 per game. The Buffaloes are shooting better as well, hitting 46 percent while holding opponents to 35 percent. Brittany Spears has enjoyed playing at Coors as much as anyone, averaging 24.8 points and 9.6 rebounds at home while hitting 52 percent from the field.
ABOUT THE KANGAROOS: UMKC is 4-6 overall and 1-1 in Summit League play. The Kangaroos are coming off a 52-49 setback at Northern Arizona on Dec. 16. UMKC, searching for its first road win of the season (0-3), averages 62.4 points per game, but has been held under 50 in two of its three road contests this year. The Kangaroos are shooting 36 percent from the floor and 69 percent from the free throw line. UMKC has been able to pressure teams into mistakes, to the tune of 10 steals per game and forcing 20 turnovers per contest by its opponents. The Kangaroos were picked to finish eighth in the 10-team Summit League.
Junior guard Chazny Morris is the bulk of the UMKC offense averaging 17.2 points per game. A second-team All-Summit League performer as a sophomore, Morris also leads the Kangaroos in rebounding (6.8 rpg), assists (3.3 apg), steals (1.3 spg) and 3-point field goals (25). She earned Summit League Player of the Week honors on Dec. 16 after scoring 23 points in a 69-49 win over Northern Colorado. Senior forward Kalei Nance is UMKC's second leading scorer at 8.0 points per game and also grabs 5.6 rebounds per contest.
SERIES RECORDS: This will be the third meeting between Colorado and UMKC and the first in 19 years. The Buffaloes won both prior meetings as the two teams played a home-and-home series in 1988 and 1989. Colorado won the first meeting 60-49 in Kansas City on Dec. 14, 1988 and also took the rematch in Boulder, 79-64, on Dec. 6, 1989. Colorado is 8-1 all-time against teams currently in the Summit League.
Kathy McConnell-Miller is 4-0 as a head coach against UMKC, all while she was with Tulsa.
FAMILIAR FACES: UMKC sports two former Buffaloes on its coaching staff. Whitney Law, a Littleton, Colo., native who was on Kathy McConnell-Miller's first CU team, is in her third year as a UMKC assistant coach. Law, who holds CU's record for assists in one game with 15, played guard for the Buffaloes from 2003-06 averaging 7.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Leslie Howard, in her first year as a graduate assistant for UMKC, played a little over one season for Colorado (2003-04) before transferring and completing her playing career at Arkansas. Howard was a member of CU's last NCAA Tournament team in 2004, averaging 2.4 points in 20 games.
One player rivalry resumes against UMKC on Saturday. Colorado sophomore center Courtney Dunn and UMKC junior guard Chazny Morris are both Berkely, Calif., natives and played against each other in high school in one of Northern California's most competitive rivalries. Dunn is a graduate of St. Mary's while Morris is a graduate of Piedmont, two programs that annually battle for supremecy in the Bay Shore League and North Coast Section.
ON THIS DATE: Colorado is 6-2 all-time on Dec. 20 and playing at home on this date for just the second time ever, the other a 79-51 win over Southern Illinois in 1998.
Colorado is 151-68 all-time in the month of December. The Buffaloes, who were a perfect 7-0 in December last year, saw their nine-game winning streak in the 12th month come to an end in the loss at Seton Hall.
MORE ON SPEARS SCORING: Sophomore Brittany Spears' scoring numbers have been impressive over the first seven games and ranks among the best totals in team history. Her 141 points and 20.1 points per game average ranks fifth on CU's all-time list through the first seven games off the season. Her 36 points against UMass tied for third all-time on the Buffs' single-game chart. Spears trails only former teammate and CU's second all-time leading scorer Jackie McFarland who is on the list twice, Tera Bjorklund (2003-04)and Jamillah Lang who averaged 24.6 points in 1993-94, en route to setting Colorado's single-season record for scoring average at 19.2 per game.
CU All-Time Best Through Seven Games
Player (season) Points Avg.
1 Jamillah Lang (1993-94) 172 24.6
2 Jackie McFarland (2005-06) 166 23.7
3 Tera Bjorklund (2003-04) 154 22.0
4 Jackie McFarland (2006-07) 148 21.1
5 Brittany Spears (2008-09) 141 20.1
6 Tera Bjorklund (2002-03) 136 19.4
SCORING EARLY AND OFTEN AT COORS: The Buffaloes offense started the season red hot, breaking the 80-point mark in their first two games (89.5 ppg). It was the first time CU opened the season with back-to-back 80-plus point games since the 2002-03 campaign when the Buffs began with home wins over Rice (85-66) and Detroit Mercy (86-43). The 179 combined points were CU's most since 2000-01 when the Buffs scored 189 in wins over Albany (93-43) and Howard (96-45).
AGAINST RANKED TEAMS: Colorado is 50-108 all-time against ranked teams, after falling to No. 16/11 Virginia on Nov. 24. CU had one of its more successful years against ranked teams in 2007-08, sporting a 3-4 records. Prior to the 2007-08 season, the Buffs had suffered 23 straight losses against ranked opponents from 2004-07.
BUFFS IN OPENERS: Colorado improved to 30-5 (.857) all-time in season openers and an outstanding 33-2 (.942) all-time in home openers. Colorado has never lost its overall season opener when played at home (23-0).
HOUSTON TO MISS SEASON, DALE TO COME BACK SOON: Junior guard Whitney Houston will miss the 2008-09 season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee on Sept. 24 during team individual workouts. She had successful surgery in October and will be able to use her redshirt season and have two years of eligibility remaining.
Houston has averaged 6.1 points and 1.8 assists for the Buffaloes in 59 games over the past two seasons. She was a starter in 20 of those and was in the mix for the starting point guard position once again. Houston was CU's leader in scoring (4.3 ppg) and assists (1.4 apg) among those that primarily came off the bench in 2007-08 and averaged 6.5 points and just under two assists over the final 15 games.
Sophomore guard Chelsea Dale, who underwent successful surgery to stabilize ligaments in her right ankle in early September, should be available soon. Dale has been practicing with the team and is expected to make her season debut within the next few games. Dale saw action in 12 games as a true freshman in 2007-08.
BUFFS PICKED 11TH...AGAIN: For the third straight season Colorado was picked to finish 11th in the annual Big 12 Conference Preseason Coaches Poll.
Oklahoma was picked to win the 2009 title with seven first place votes and 124 points overall. Texas, earning one first place vote, edged out Iowa State for second place with 95 points. The Cyclones, who actually claimed a pair of first place votes came in third with 93. Baylor was fourth with 89 (and one first place vote), followed by Texas A&M (85), Oklahoma State (79, and one first place vote), Kansas State (71), Nebraska (56), Kansas (41), Texas Tech (36), Colorado (18) and Missouri (15).
The Buffaloes have fared better than the Big 12 coaches preseason prediction each of the last three seasons under Kathy McConnell-Miller:
Season Preseason Actual
2008-09 11th ??
2007-08 11th 9th
2006-07 11th t-7th
2005-06 12th 11th
TOUGH SCHEDULE: Colorado once again faces a tough schedule with no less than 17 games against 2008 NCAA or WNIT tournament teams. Seven of CU's opponents are ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and Associated Press polls and four -- Texas A&M, Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma, are in the top 10 of both.
HOME AT THE CECC: Colorado is traditionally tough at home with a 325-100 all-time record at the Coors Events/Conference Center (.765). The Buffaloes have won 10 or more games in a season at the CECC in 20 of the previous 30 years including a 15-6 mark in 2007-08. The Buffaloes have enjoyed five undefeated seasons (1980-83, 1992-94) at the CECC.
BUFFS ON TV: Colorado's schedule features seven games that will be televised either regionally or nationally, all at home and on FSN Rocky Mountain. The Buffaloes will host Nebraska on Saturday, Jan. 31 in a nationally televised contest on FSN. Other games on CU's FSN Rocky Mountain schedule are Colorado State (Nov. 19), Baylor (Jan. 10), Oklahoma (Jan. 21), Texas Tech (Jan. 28), Iowa State (Feb. 7) and Missouri (Feb. 28).
UP NEXT: Colorado continues nonconference action by hosting Saint Louis University on Monday, Dec. 22, at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.