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Buffs Bring In Tigers For Big 12 Showdown

Feb 27, 2009

THE GAME: The University of Colorado will host the University of Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 4 p.m. at the Coors Events/Conference Center.

BROADCAST: Saturday's game will be televised live on FSN Rocky Mountain. Marc Stout will handle play-by-play duties and is joined by legendary CU basketball coach Ceal Barry with the color commentary and Alanna Rizzo on the sidelines. Saturday's game will be broadcast live on KVCU 1190 AM with Mike Rice giving the play-by-play and Carol Callan of USA Basketball with the color commentary. Live internet audio of all CU basketball games is available through Yahoo! Sports.

OPENING TIP: Protecting the ball may just be the key to Saturday's matchup. Missouri ranks at the bottom of scoring and shooting percentage of the Big 12, but the Tigers are among the league leaders in turnover margin and steals. The Buffaloes are a better scoring and shooting team than Missouri, but rank near the bottom in turnover margin and turnovers per game.

THE BUFFALOES: Colorado is 11-14 overall and tied with Missouri for 11th place in the Big 12 standings at 3-10. The teams are just one game out of eighth place as Oklahoma State, Kansas and Nebraska are all at 4-9. The Buffaloes will play at Nebraska on Tuesday, March 3. Colorado has dropped five of its last six but has won two of its last three at home and 23 of its last 34 overall at the Coors Events Center.

Sophomore guard/forward Brittany Spears leads Colorado and ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring at 17.8 points per game. Spears has eight double-doubles this season, one more than her total from last season and has three in the last five games. She has 10 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 second in the Big 12 in minutes (35.4 mpg), sixth in rebounding (8.0 rpg), eighth in steals (1.8 spg), ninth in blocks (1.1 bpg), 10th in field-goal percentage (.426), 12th in free-throw percentage (.745) and 13th in 3-point field-goals made (1.5 3mpg).

Senior center Kara Richards is having her most productive season, ranking second on the team in scoring (12.6 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg) while leading the way from the floor at 57 percent (122-of-214). Over the last three games she has averaged 18 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest while shooting 63 percent from the field (20-of-32). She has two of her four career double-doubles in those last three games, including a 21-point, 10-rebound effort at Iowa State on Feb. 25. Richards, who is 11th in rebounding on the Big 12's overall rankings, has four double-digit rebounding efforts this year, all coming during Big 12 games including back-to-back games of 15 rebounds to start the conference season. 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 four times this season, and twice in the last three games. She scored 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 10.0 points per contest and is Colorado's leading 3-point shooter with 62 on the season, ranking second in the Big 12 (2.5 3mpg). Her 32 3-pointers during league play are the most in the Big 12. She bounced back from a recent 2-of-13 stretch from downtown by draining 4-of-6 from long range in the win over Kansas. She had a similar drought in the first three Big 12 games, making 2-of-15, and then proceeded to go on a tear making 20 of her next 33 (.606) over a four-game span. During that four game run, Smith twice tied the school record for 3-pointers made in a game (7) and in one half (5). She has five games of 5-plus 3-pointers this season and she has hit 50 percent or better from 3-point range in nine 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 4.2 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 (1.8 spg), assists (3.4 apg) and minutes (30.8 mpg) and is third in scoring at 8.0 per game. Overall in the conference rankings she is seventh in assists, 10th in steals and 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.9). She tied her personal best and team season high with eight assists at Iowa State.

Sophomore guard Kelly Jo Mullaney has returned to the starting lineup for the past three games and has responded with her best stretch of games to date. She is averaging 11.7 points over the last three contests, while shooting 54 percent from the field (14-of-26). She scored a career-high 20 points at Iowa State hitting 8-of-11 from the floor, including a perfect 4-of-4 from 3-point range. Overall Mullaney is fifth on the team in scoring, averaging 5.3 points per game.

Mullaney replaced sophomore Britney Blythe, who had started the previous 15 games. Blythe has had her best moments during the Big 12 season, where she has scored 36 of her season's 57 points. 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.

Guard Hannah Skildum made her second start of the season at Iowa State, replacing Fressle. Skildum's minutes have picked up lately as the senior captain has played double-digit minutes the last five games. One of CU's better defensive players, Skildum had five blocked shots in the past three games including a career-best three in the win over Kansas on Feb. 18.

Colorado is averaging 61.3 points per game while giving up 64.4 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 5.5 more per game than the Buffaloes.

ABOUT THE TIGERS: Missouri is 12-14 overall and tied with Colorado for 11th place in the Big 12 at 3-10. The Tigers have dropped three of their last four, but the one win was a 52-43 decision over No. 16 (AP)/14 (WBCA) ranked Kansas State on Feb. 18. Missouri is winless on the road in the Big 12 this season (0-6) and is 3-7 overall. Missouri is the lowest scoring team in the Big 12 (61.2 ppg) and is also last in field-goal percentage (.383) and free-throw percentage (.635), but the Tigers have been strong on the defensive side which has allowed them to improve from their 10-21 record from a year ago. MU is holding opponents under 60 points per game and forces 19 turnovers per contest. The Tigers rank second in the Big 12 in steals (9.8 spg) and third in turnover margin (+3.5).

Missouri has a balanced scoring attack, featuring the inside-outside presence of junior forward Jessra Johnson (13.2 ppg) and senior guard Alyssa Hollins (13.0 ppg). Johnson is the Tigers' leader in rebounds (6.9 rpg) and blocks (1.0 bpg) and is second in assists (2.2 apg). Hollins, an honorable mention Big 12 selection in 2008, is the deep threat. She's Missouri's all-time leader in 3-point field goals and has 52 this season, ranking third in the Big 12 right behind Colorado's Bianca Smith (62) and Iowa State's Heather Ezell (68). Sophomore forward Shakara Jones averages 10.4 points per game and is shooting 51 percent from the field. Sophomore guard RaeShara Brown ranks second on the team in rebounding (6.0 rpg) and tops the Big 12 in steals with 65.

SERIES RECORDS: This will be the 65th meeting between Colorado and Missouri, becoming the most played series in team history even if only for a few days as the Buffaloes will play their 65th game with Nebraska on Tuesday, March 3. Colorado holds a 38-26 series lead over Missouri. A win on Saturday would be Colorado's 39th over Missouri which would tie its series against Nebraska (39-25) for its most wins over one team. The Buffaloes have won three straight over the Tigers, including a 61-56 decision at Mizzou Arena on Jan. 24. Colorado is 20-7 all-time against Missouri in Boulder and has won the last two and 16 of the last 18. Missouri's last win at the Coors Events Center was a 72-57 decision on Feb. 18, 2006.

Kathy McConnell-Miller is 4-4 against Missouri as a head coach, 4-3 while with Colorado.

COLORADO AND MISSOURI, LAST 10 GAMES:

Date Result Date Result

1/24/09 (A) W, 61-56 2/18/06 (H) L, 57-72

3/5/08 (H) W, 63-47 1/18/06 (A) L, 49-69

1/9/08 (A) W, 70-58 2/9/05 (H) L, 55-58

1/28/07 (A) L, 48-61 1/18/05 (A) W, 56-51

1/3/07 (H) W, 71-59 1/31/04 (A) W, 68-66

MORE SMITH FROM DOWNTOWN: Bianca Smith, who set a CU single-season record with 80 3-point field goals last year, has established herself as one of the Big 12's most dangerous outside shooters. After starting the season by hitting just 12 of her first 49 3-point attempts (.245), she has hit 50-of-108 (.463) over the last 17 games and 30-of-62 (.483) over the last 10. She tied the single-game school record for 3-pointers made in one game (7) and in one half (5) twice in a three game span in which she was 15-of-25 (.600) from downtown.

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. Smith leads the Big 12 in 3-pointers made (32) and percentage (.416) in league only contests and overall is second in 3's made (62) and fourth in percentage (.395)

She is fifth on CU's all-time list for 3-point field goals with 174 and 3-point attempts at 466. Smith's 142 3-pointers over the last two seasons is the second best mark in team history for a two-year spanand she needs eight more to pass Kate Fagan's record mark of 149 between 2002-04:

Most 3-pointers Over Two Seasons

Name Seasons 3's

1. Kate Fagan 2002-04 149

2. Bianca Smith 2007-09 142

3. Shelley Sheetz 1992-94 139

4. Mandy Nightingale 2000-02 131

5. Jenny Roulier 2000-02 130

SPEARS' 400 DOUBLE: With an 18-point outing against Kansas, sophomore Brittany Spears became just the fifth player in CU history to score 400 in her first two seasons in Boulder and the fourth to do it in freshman-sophomore campaigns (Debbie Descano scored 400 as a junior and senior after transferring to CU after her sophomore season). One member of the current 400 Double Club had a great seat to witness Spears join the group, as current CU Director of Basketball Operations Tracy Tripp was the third member, scoring 860 points over the 1985-87 seasons.

With 918 career points, she is already the third highest scorer in team history through a sophomore season, trailing only CU Athletic Hall of Fame members Lisa Van Goor (1,288) and Shelley Sheetz (923). Spears is just 41 points away from cracking the career Top 25, and on pace to become the second fastest to 1,000, trailing only Van Goor.

400 In First Two Seasons At CU:

Name Seasons Total

Debbie Descano *484 in ?79-80; 452 in ?80-81 936

Lisa Van Goor 610 in ?80-81; 678 in ?81-82 1,288

Tracy Tripp 405 in ?85-86; 455 in ?86-87 860

Shelley Sheetz 437 in ?91-92; 486 in ?92-93 923

Brittany Spears 472 in ?07-08; 446 in ?08-09 918

*Junior and Senior Seasons

Spears has already moved into several of Colorado's career Top 10 lists. She is currently eighth in blocked shots with 80, ninth in 3-point field-goal attempts (290) and 10th in 3-pointers made (94).

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 in Lawrence 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 second in the Big 12 in minutes in both overall (35.4 mpg) and conferene only games (37.5 mpg).

RICHARDS REBOUNDS: Senior Kara Richards is nearing a rebounding milestone, needing just five to become the 18th player in team history to secure 500 rebounds. Richards currently ranks 18th on CU's all-time list for rebounds with 495. She is averaging 7.2 this season, a career best and a drastic improvement from the two per game she averaged as a junior. Richards has been especially tough on the offensive boards, ranking fourth in the Big 12 at 3.2 per game. Her numbers have increased during the Big 12 schedule as she is third among league players with 3.8 per contest. Her total of 81 offensive rebounds this year is 20 more than her overall rebounding total in 30 games as a junior.

SHE CAN SHOOT TOO: Kara Richards tops the Buffaloes in field goal accuracy this season at 57.0 percent (122-of-214) and is on pace to finish her career among the best in team history. Her career percentage of 52.9 currently ranks 10th on CU's all-time list. Richards' best season in terms of accuracy was actually her sophomore year in 2006-07 when she ranked second in the Big 12 at 57.9 percent, trailing only teammate Jackie McFarland on the league's overall charts. Her mark in 2006-07 is the 12th best single-season percentage in team history.

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 50-116 all-time against ranked teams, after falling to No. 25/24 Iowa State on Feb. 25. The Buffaloes are 0-9 this season against ranked teams and 3-13 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 and Baylor are in the Top 10 of both.

HOME AT THE CECC: Colorado is traditionally tough at home with a 330-104 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 travels for its last regular season road game of the 2008-09 season as the Buffaloes face the University of Nebraska on Tuesday, March 2, at 6:05 p.m. MST at the Devaney Center in Lincoln.