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Buffs Search For Road Love At A&M

Feb 12, 2009

THE GAME: The University of Colorado continues Big 12 Conference action by traveling to play No. 12 (AP)/8 (WBCA) ranked Texas A&M University on Saturday, Feb. 14, at 1 p.m. MST at Reed Arena in College Station.

BROADCAST: Saturday's game will be broadcast live on KVCU 1190 AM with Mike Rice giving the play-by-play. Live internet audio of all CU basketball games is available through Yahoo! Sports.

OPENING TIP: Colorado plays its sixth and final regular season game against a Big 12 Southern Division team Saturday and will end with six straight against Northern opponents. The Buffaloes will be looking for their first road win against a Southern foe since defeating Baylor in Waco on Jan. 7, 2004, a span of 16-straight losses.

THE BUFFALOES: Colorado is 10-11 overall and in a three-way tie with Kansas and Missouri for ninth place in the Big 12 at 2-7. The Buffaloes are coming off their league "Bye" week, seeing their first action since dropping a 53-47 decision against No. 21/23 Iowa State on Feb. 7. Colorado has had some recent sucess coming out of the league bye, winning its last two with the extra time off, with both of those coming at home. The Buffaloes are out to stop a two game overall skid and will be searching for their third road win of the season and fourth away from Boulder. Colorado picked up its first Big 12 road win of 2009 on Jan. 24 at Missouri. The Buffaloes are 6-13 on the road in the last two seasons after winning just five games in 33 tries in the three previous years (2004-07).

Brittany Spears leads Colorado and ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring at 17.6 points per game. Over the last four games, she is averaging 18.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game while hitting 50 percent from the floor (34-of-62). Spears has six double-doubles this season, including a 14-point, 12-rebound effort against Iowa State. Spears has eight games of 20-plus points, including 26 against Texas Tech, a personal high in Big 12 play. She was named MVP of the Paradise Classic after averaging 16 points, seven rebounds and three blocks per game. 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 third in the Big 12 in minutes (35.0 mpg), fifth in rebounding (8.0 rpg), eighth in blocks (1.1 bpg), 10th in 3-point percentage (.333), overall field-goal percentatge (.444) and steals (1.8 spg), 11th in 3-pointers made (1.6 3mpg) and 15th in free-throw percentage (.690).

Senior center Kara Richards is having her most productive season, ranking second on the team in scoring (12.0 ppg) and rebounding (6.9 rpg) while leading the way from the floor at 56 percent (99-of-177). She has made 25 of her last 41 from the floor (.610) including a perfect 5-of-5 from the field against Texas Tech and is averaging 13.4 points over the last five games. Richards is averaging 8.4 rebounds through nine Big 12 games, leading the team and ranking fifth on the league charts. Richards, who ranks 13th in rebounding on the Big 12's overall rankings, recorded back-to-back games of 15 rebounds to start the conference season, her first two double-digit rebounding efforts this year. Richards was named to the Paradise Classic All-Tournament team averaging 14 points and seven rebounds while hitting 71 percent from the field (12-of-17). Richards has 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.

Junior guard Bianca Smith is third on the team in scoring at 10.4 points per contest and is Colorado's leading 3-point shooter with 53 on the season, ranking second in the Big 12 (2.5 3mpg). She has rebounded in a big way from a 3-game mini slump from downtown to begin the conference season. After making just 2-of-15 in the first three Big 12 games, she has hit 50 percent (21-of-42) from 3-point range the last six, twice tying the school record for 3-pointers made in a game (7) and in one half (5) during that span. She has five games of 5-plus 3-pointers this season and she has hit 50 percent or better from 3-point range in seven of the last 14 games. Named to the Paradise Classic All-Tournament team, Smith had a game-high 23 points against Hawaii on 6-of-7 from 3-point range, a personal best from downtown in terms of accuracy. She's third on the team in rebounding at 4.7 per game, a substantial improvement from her career 1.7 average entering this season. Smith has six or more rebounds in eight games including a career high 12 -- all defensive -- against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, her first double-digit rebounding total.

True freshman guard Alyssa Fressle has given the Buffaloes good all-around play. Fressle leads all Big 12 freshmen in steals (1.9 spg), assists (3.3 apg) and minutes (31.3 mpg) and is third in scoring at 8.7 per game. Fressle has scored in double-digits in four of the last seven games including a Big 12 high 13 points against Texas Tech. Overall in the conference rankings she is seventh in steals, eighth in assists, 10th in minutes and 11th in assist-to-turnover ratio (0.9).

Sophomore Britney Blythe has been the starting point guard for the last two-thirds of the season with sophomore Kelly Jo Mullaney coming off the bench, a lineup that has produced a 7-7 record. Blythe, who is more of a natural point guard, has scored 34 of her season's 55 points in Big 12 play. She had a career night against Baylor, hitting her first four 3-point field goals for a personal-best 12 points. Blythe, who finished the night a career-best 4-of-6 from the field, had made just 1-of-12 3-point field goals this season and 5-of-33 in her career prior to the Baylor game. Mullaney, who is fifth on the team in scoring at 4.3 per game, is averaging 6.3 points off the bench over the last three games after scoring just three points in the previous five games. She is hitting 75 percent from the field (8-of-12) in that span.

Colorado is averaging 61.4 points per game while giving up 62.9 to its opponents. The Buffaloes are shooting 42 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range. Rebounding has been a tough area this season as opponents are averaging five more per game than the Buffaloes.

ABOUT THE AGGIES: No. 12 (AP)/8 (WBCA) ranked Texas A&M is 18-5 overall and resides in sixth place in the Big 12 standings at 6-4, but is just 1/2 game out of the third spot. The Aggies have lost two of three, but both losses came on the road. Texas A&M is 9-1 at home this season, its lone setback against Baylor on Jan. 21. Texas A&M is one of the top defensive teams in the Big 12, leading the league in field-goal percentage defense, both overall (.353) and from the 3-point line (.249). Turning opponents over is also a staple of the defending Big 12 Tournament champions. Texas A&M averages a Big 12 best 11.7 steals per game and forces opponents into nearly 23 turnovers per game. The Aggies can also score, averaging 67 points per game and hitting 42 percent from the field.

Two-time All-Big 12 guard Takia Starks leads Texas A&M at 16.1 points per game and is the team's top 3-point shooter with 25. Fellow senior Danielle Gant, a 2008 All-Big 12 performer, is second on the team in scoring at 13.9 per contest and tops the team in field goal percentage (.504) and steals (2.3 spg). Sophomore point guard Sydney Colson tops the Aggies in assists (75) while scoring 5.9 per game. Senior post La Toya Micheaux is Texas A&M's top rebounder with 7.2 per contest.

SERIES RECORDS: This will be the 17th meeting between Colorado and Texas A&M with the Buffaloes holding a 10-6 series lead. Texas A&M has won the last five meetings, including a 72-68 decision last season at the Coors Events Center. Colorado is 4-3 in College Station, but the Aggies have won the last two. CU's last win over Texas A&M was a 70-58 win in Boulder on Jan. 21, 2004, and its last win in College Station was a 55-49 triumph on Feb. 8, 2003.Kathy McConnell-Miller is 0-5 against Texas A&M as a head coach, 0-4 while at Colorado.

COLORADO AND TEXAS A&M, LAST 10:

Date Result Date Result

1/16/08 (H) L, 68-72 1/21/04 (H) W, 70-58

3/7/07 (N) L, 45-62 2/8/03 (A) W, 55-49

1/18/07 (A) L, 58-74 1/19/02 (H) W, 88-70

1/24/06 (H) L, 46-55 2/17/01 (A) W, 67-54

2/5/05 (A) L, 62-72 1/18/00 (H) W, 62-47

MORE SMITH FROM DOWNTOWN: Bianca Smith, who set a CU single-season record with 80 3-point field goals last year, is on a tear from downtown after a slow beginning. After starting the season by hitting just 12 of her first 49 3-point attempts (.245), she has rebounded to hit 41-of-88 (.466) over the last 13 games and 21-of-42 (.500) over the last six. She has tied the single-game school record for 3-pointers made in one game (7) and in one half (5) twice in the last five games.

CU players have now made seven 3-pointers in one game seven times with Smith leading the way with three of those instances. Her seven 3-pointers at Missouri was only the second time it had been achieved on the road, the other belonging to Annan Wilson who was CU's first player with seven 3-pointers doing so at Kansas State on Jan. 14, 1989.

Five 3-pointers in one half has now been done five times, with Smith recording three of them. Kate Fagan, at Syracuse on Dec. 31, 2002, and Shelley Sheetz at Tennessee on Dec. 20, 1993, are the other two.

Smith had a career night in terms of accuracy in the win over Hawaii hitting 6-of-7 from 3-point range en route to 23 points. She is second in the Big 12 this season in 3-pointers made both overall (53) and during league play (23). Smith ranks third in the Big 12 in percentage during conference only contests (.404) and fifth overall (.387).

She is fifth on CU's all-time list for 3-point field goals with 165 and 3-point attempts at 446.

SPEARS MOVING UP LISTS: Brittany Spears has moved into Colorado's career Top 10 in 3-point field goals made and attempted as well as blocked shots. She had one 3-pointer against Nebraska to move her career number to 91, which is 10th on CU's all-time list. Spears is also ninth in 3-point attempts (278) and 10th in blocks (75).

MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR MINUTES: Brittany Spears achieved a rare feat by playing all 40 minutes in three straight games, beginning with the win at Missouri and continuing with home games against Texas Tech and Nebraska. She became the first player to play 40 or more in three straight since the 1999-2000 season when Mandy Nightingale played all 40 minutes in back-to-back home games against Kansas State and Texas and then played 44 of 45 minutes in an overtime loss at Baylor. As for playing every minute for three straight games, that hadn't happened since Diane Hiemstra played all 40 for four straight during in February 1984 (at Kansas, vs. Iowa State, vs. Oklahoma State, at Kansas State). Hiemstra also had a string of three straight one year earlier, playing every minute of CU's final three games of 1983 (vs. Kansas, at Oklahoma, vs. Kansas State).

Spears' minute streak came to an end during the second half of the Kansas game as she went to the bench at the 12:20 mark after picking up her fourth foul. That stopped a span of 172 consecutive minutes played by Spears, dating back to the first half of the Oklahoma game. Spears ranks third in the Big 12 in overall minutes (35.0 mpg) and is second in conferene only games (37.8 mpg).

CHALLENGING START TO LEAGUE PLAY: Colorado put the wraps on the toughest start to the conference schedule for any Big 12 team this year, playing four straight against ranked teams including a pair of Top 5 opponents. The Buffaloes played well in home losses to No. 6/5 Baylor and No. 3/2 Oklahoma, but struggled in lopsided road decisions at No. 22/22 Oklahoma State and No. 16/17 Texas. The resulting 0-4 start to league play is the first for the Buffaloes in the program's 35-year history, but it's also the only time CU has opened conference action with four straight ranked teams. Colorado opened the 2002 Big 12 season with three straight games against ranked league opponents. The Buffaloes, who were ranked themselves between No. 14-21 during that stretch, lost all three of those matchups, falling to No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 21/20 Texas and No. 14/18 Kansas State. That stretch was the final three games of a five-game span against ranked opponents as the Buffaloes ended nonconference play with a loss at No. 20 Florida and win over No. 21/22 LSU. CU's four straight against ranked teams were the most since that same five-game stretch during the 2001-02 season. The Buffaloes would go on to play a school record 16 games against ranked teams that season, winning six. CU's tough schedule paid dividens that season as the Buffaloes won 14 of their final 16 games, advancing to the 2002 Elite Eight.

AGAINST RANKED TEAMS: Colorado is 50-113 all-time against ranked teams, after falling to No. 21/23 Iowa State on Feb. 7. The Buffaloes are 0-6 this season against ranked teams and 3-10 over the past two years. Prior to the 2007-08 season, the Buffs had suffered 23 straight losses against ranked opponents from 2004-07.

CU IN BIG 12 OPENERS: Colorado dropped to 6-7 in Big 12 openers after the loss to Baylor. CU is 4-8 in its first road Big 12 game of the season, including a 70-58 win at Missouri in 2008 to open league play. The Buffaloes are 20-15 all-time in conference openers, including the Big Eight and Intermountain Conferences.

BALANCED SCORING ATTACK: Colorado had its most balanced scoring attack in over two years as five players scored in double-digits during the Buffs 73-57 win over Idaho State. Brittany Spears and Kara Richards each had 14 points, Julie Seabrook and Bianca Smith each had 12 and Alyssa Fressle had 11. It was almost six in double-digits as Kelly Jo Mullaney had eight off the bench. It was CU's first game with five in double-digits since a 77-71 win at Kansas on Feb. 1, 2006. Current CU senior Hannah Skildum was one of the five with double digits in that game, scoring 11 off the bench as a freshman.

SOUTHERN GAME CANCELLED: Colorado's home game with Southern University scheduled for Friday, Dec. 12, was cancelled due to inclement weather. A rare southern snow storm, which left 3-5 inches in and around the Baton Rouge area the morning of Dec. 11, shut down many businesses, schools and flights. Southern's travel plans were cancelled and the Jaguars were not able find travel alternatives to Boulder for the Dec. 12 date. The game will not be rescheduled in 2008-09.

CU women's basketball season ticket holders and fans who purchased single game tickets for the Southern contest can redeem their tickets for any other game remaining on the women's schedule. For more information, contact the CU Athletic Ticket Office at 303-49BUFFS or 800-87BUFFS.

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).

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 RETURNS: 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, made her season debut against UMKC, playing in the final two minutes of the game. She 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 currently ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and Associated Press Top 25, and it has been as many as eight during various points of the season. Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas A&M are in the Top 10 of both.

HOME AT THE CECC: Colorado is traditionally tough at home with a 329-104 all-time record at the Coors Events/Conference Center (.760). 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 will have its first rematch of the conference season as the Buffaloes return home to host the University of Kansas on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. at the Coors Events/Conference Center.