Buffs Head To OKC As No. 12 Seed
THE GAME: The University of Colorado is the No. 12 seed at the 2009 Phillips 66 Big 12 Conference Championship, scheduled for March 12-15, at the COX Convention Center in Oklahoma City. The Buffaloes will open tournament play with a first round game against No. 5 seed Kansas State University on Thursday, March 12, at 10 a.m. MST.
BROADCAST: All Colorado women's basketball postseason games will be broadcast on KKZN AM 760 or KVCU AM 1190. Mike Rice will have the play-by-play with Carol Callan of USA Basketball providing the color commentary. Live internet audio can be accessed through Yahoo! Sports. Thursday's first round games will be televised by COX cable outlets in the Oklahoma City area while the quarterfinals through the championship game will be carried live nationally on Fox Sports Net.
OPENING TIPS: Some facts about Colorado and the Big 12 Championship:
- Colorado is 8-11 in Big 12 Championship tournament games.
- Colorado won the inaugural Big 12 Tournament in 1997 as the No. 3 seed defeating No. 5 Kansas State, 55-54, in the championship game.
- Colorado has five conference tournament titles in its history, four of which came in the old Big Eight Conference.
- This is the eighth time in the 13-year history of the Big 12 Championship that Colorado is seeded lower than No. 5.
- Colorado has been the No. 12 seed once before, in 2005 when the Buffs lost their first round game to No. 5 Iowa State 64-62.
- Colorado is 3-4 in Big 12 Championship first round games (seeded fifth or lower).
- The No. 12 seed is 1-12 all time in the Big 12 Championship and 1-11 against the No. 5 seed. The lone win by a No. 12 seed in the Big 12 Championship came last year as Missouri upset No. 5 Oklahoma 70-64 in overtime.
- In 2008, both Big 12 men's and women's No. 12 seeds pulled upsets for the first time in their respective championship. The men's Cindarella? Colorado upset Baylor, 91-84 in double overtime in Kansas City before falling to Oklahoma in the quarterfinals.
- The only other time the Big 12 Championship was held in Oklahoma City was in 2007 when No. 8 seeded Colorado defeated No. 9 Texas Tech in a first round game before falling to No. 1 Texas A&M in the quarterfinals.
COLORADO BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY (8-11):
1997 No. 3 Seed
Quarterfinals: Colorado 56, Iowa State 39
Semifinals: Colorado 64, Texas 50
Championship: Colorado 54, Kansas State 44
1998 No. 8 Seed
First Round: Colorado 71, Oklahoma 66
Second Round: Texas Tech 81, Colorado 51
1999 No. 9 Seed
First Round: Kansas State 55, Colorado 51
2000 No. 10 Seed
First Round: Colorado 83, Missouri 68
Quarterfinals: Texas Tech 76, Colorado 60
2001 No. 4 Seed
Quarterfinals: Colorado 83, Missouri 72
Semifinals: Oklahoma 102, Colorado 93
2002 No. 3 Seed
Quarterfinals: Iowa State 58, Colorado 56
2003 No. 4 Seed
Quarterfinals: Colorado 73, Oklahoma 68
Semifinals: Texas 62, Colorado 47
2004 No. 3 Seed
Quarterfinals: Oklahoma 63, Colorado 56
2005 No. 12 Seed
First Round: Iowa State 64, Colorado 62
2006 No. 11 Seed
First Round: Nebraska 67, Colorado 59
2007 No. 8 Seed
First Round: Colorado 71, Texas Tech 67
Quarterfinals: Texas A&M 62, Colorado 45
2008 No. 9 Seed
First Round: Iowa State 76, Colorado 50
THE BUFFALOES: Colorado finished the regular season at 11-17 overall and in 12th place in the Big 12 final standings at 3-13. The Buffaloes have lost five straight and eight of their last nine, ending the league campaign in bottom spot for the first time since 2005.
Sophomore guard/forward Brittany Spears leads Colorado and ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring at 18.1 points per game. With 18 points in the regular season finale against Kansas State, she became the seventh different player (11th time overall) in team history to reach 500 in one season and is currently 11th on CU's single-season list at 507. She needs 21 points to become the 22nd player in team history to reach 1,000 and is on pace to be the second-fastest to that plateau. If Spears could reach that milestone this season, she would join CU Athletic Hall of Famer Lisa Van Goor as the only players reach 1,000 as a sophomore. She is already 22nd on CU's all-time scoring list with 979.
Spears has 11 games with 20 or more points this season, most recently equalling a personal Big 12 best with 26 against Missouri. Spears has eight double-doubles this season, one more than her total from last season, five of which came during 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 (35.6 mpg), seventh in rebounding (7.8 rpg), eighth in steals (1.9 spg), ninth in 3-point percentage (.323) and blocks (1.1 bpg), and 12th in field-goal percentage (.431), free-throw percentage (.714) and 3-pointers made (1.5 3mpg).
Senior center Kara Richards is finishing her season, and career, as strong as anyone, ranking second on the team in scoring (13.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg) while leading the way from the floor at 56.9 percent (145-of-255). Over the last five games she is averaging a team-best 19.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting 58.0 percent from the field (40-of-69). Richards recent scoring purge has allowed her to soar in the Big 12 rankings. She is second in the Big 12 in overall field goal percentage (.569) and ranks 10th in rebounding and 12th in scoring. She has three of her five career double-doubles in the last six games, including a 12-point, 10-rebound effort against Missouri. Richards has five 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 five times this season, and three times in the last five games.
Junior guard Bianca Smith is third on the team in scoring at 9.5 points per contest and is Colorado's leading 3-point shooter with 63 on the season, ranking second in the Big 12 (2.3 3mpg). Smith had one of the most memorable stretches in team history in January making 20-of-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 4.1 per game, a substantial improvement from her career 1.7 average entering this season. Smith has six or more rebounds in nine 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 (31.3 mpg) and is third in scoring at 8.0 per game. Overall in the conference rankings she is seventh in assists and 10th in steals and assist-to-turnover ratio (0.9). She is averaging 11 points and 2.5 steals shooting 50 percent from the floor (9-of-18) over the last two games.
Sophomore guard Kelly Jo Mullaney has returned to the starting lineup for the past six games and has responded with her best stretch of games to date. She is averaging 9.0 points over the last six contests, while shooting 45 percent from the field (21-of-47). 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 5.4 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 eight games. One of CU's better defensive players, Skildum had five blocked shots in the past four games including a career-best three in the win over Kansas on Feb. 18.
ABOUT THE WILDCATS: No. 21 Kansas State is 23-6 overall and finished the regular season fifth in the Big 12 standings at 10-6. Kansas State has won its last two after struggling through a 2-4 stretch in February. The Wildcats will be playing their first neutral court game of the season. Kansas State boasts the third best scoring defense in the nation, allowing opponents just 52.6 points per game. The Wildcats average 62.8 points themselves and shoot 44 percent from the field, third best in the Big 12. Kansas State does a great job taking care of the ball, committing just 13.7 turnovers per game, the sixth best mark in NCAA Division I.
Junior forward Ashley Sweat leads Kansas State and ranks fourth in the Big 12 in scoring at 16.5 points per game. Sweat also ranks fifth in the conference in free-throw percentage (.829) and is eighth in field-goal percentage (.473). Senior forward Marlies Gipson is second on the team in scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg) and is tied with Baylor's Danielle Wilson for the most blocked shots in the Big 12 this season with 83. All-Big 12 point guard Shalee Lehning leads conference and ranks second in the nation in assists at 7.7 per game, and is KSU's top rebounder at 7.3 per contest. Junior guard Kari Kincaid is the Wildcats' top 3-point shooter, with 50 on the season.
SERIES RECORDS: This will be the 64th meeting between Colorado and Kansas State with the Buffaloes holding a slim 32-31 series lead. Kanas State swept the regular season series, winning 72-60 in Manhattan on Feb. 21 and 71-61 in Boulder on March 7. It is the sixth time in the last seven years that the regular season series has ended in a sweep between the two teams, the lone exception coming in 2008 when both teams won at home. Colorado is 4-3 against Kansas State on a neutral court, all but one of which have come during Big Eight-Big 12 postseason play. The Buffaloes are 1-1 against the Wildcats in Big 12 Championship play. CU defeated Kansas State 54-44 to win the inaugural tournament title in 1997. Two years later, the Wildcats won a first round 8-9 matchup, 55-51. Kathy McConnell-Miller is 3-5 against Kansas State as a head coach, all with Colorado.
COLORADO AND KANSAS STATE, LAST 10:
Date Result Date Result
3/7/09 (H) L, 61-71 1/31/07 (H) W, 66-55
2/21/09 (A) L, 60-72 2/8/06 (H) L, 62-67
2/23/08 (H) W, 73-68 1/14/06 (A) L, 66-85
1/19/08 (A) L, 67-60 2/19/05 (A) L, 51-73
2/14/07 (A) W, 60-58 1/29/05 (H) L, 70-81
SO WE MEET AGAIN: Colorado and Kansas State will meet just five days apart, as the Wildcats defeated the Buffaloes 71-61 in Boulder on March 7 to end the regular season. It will be the third time CU will open conference tournament action with the team it just faced in the regular season finale, although in both prior instances CU's opponents had a first round game before the rematch. In 2001, Colorado lost in its final regular season game at Missouri, 78-61, but came back as the No. 4 seed and defeated the Tigers, 83-72, in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Championship. In 1997, Colorado defeated Iowa State, 64-55 in Boulder to close the regular season and then as the No. 3 seed claimed a 56-39 quarterfinal win en route to the 1997 Big 12 Tournament title.
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 51-of-115 (.443) over the last 20 games and 31-of-69 (.449) over the last 13. 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. She is second in the Big 12 in 3-point field goals made (63) and fourth in percentage (.384). In league only games she is fourth in 3-pointers made (33) and third 3-point percentage (.393).
She is fifth on CU's all-time list for 3-point field goals with 175 and 3-point attempts at 473. Smith's 143 3-pointers over the last two seasons is the second best mark in team history for a two-year spanand she needs seven 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 2007-09 143
3. Shelley Sheetz 1992-94 139
4. Mandy Nightingale 2000-02 131
5. Jenny Roulier 2000-02 130
SPEARS' 400 DOUBLE: Brittany Spears is 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 979 career points, she is the second highest scorer in team history through a sophomore season, trailing only CU Athletic Hall of Fame member Lisa Van Goor (1,288). She is already 22nd on CU's all-time scoring list and needs 21 points to become the 22nd playeer in team history to reach 1,000.
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; 507 in ?08-09 961
*Junior and Senior Seasons
Spears has already moved into several of Colorado's career Top 10 lists. She is currently eighth in blocked shots (83) and 3-point attempts (306) and ninth in 3-point field-goals made (99).
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 (35.6 mpg) and conferene only games (37.5 mpg).
RICHARDS REBOUNDS: Senior Kara Richards had 10 rebounds against Missouri, becoming the 18th player in team history to secure 500 rebounds. Richards currently ranks 18th on CU's all-time list for rebounds with 520. She is averaging 7.3 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 3.4 per game. Her numbers have increased during the Big 12 schedule as she is third among league players with 3.9 per contest. Her total of 94 offensive rebounds this year is 34 more than her overall rebounding total in 30 games as a junior.
SHE CAN SHOOT TOO: Kara Richards tops the Buffaloes and is second in the Big 12 in field goal accuracy this season at 56.9 percent (145-of-255) and is on pace to finish her career among the best in team history. Her career percentage of 53.1 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.
Skildum is a first team member, while Richards was named to the second team. The league academic honor is the first for both players.
Skildum, a native of North Oaks, Minn., has played in 27 games for the Buffaloes this season, logging two starts. A team tri-captain, she is averaging two points and just under two rebounds per game. She is CU's active leader in games played with 119 and will likely end her playing career on CU's Top 20 list for all-time appearances. A member of the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll, Skildum is scheduled to graduate in May with her bachelor's degree in communications.
Richards, a native of Graham, Texas, is second on the team in scoring (13.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.3 rpg) while leading the Buffaloes in field goal accuracy at 56.8 percent. A team tri-captain, Richards ranks 11th in blocked shots (76) and 18th in rebounding (520) on CU's all-time list and is on pace to finish among the Top 10 players in school history in field-goal percentage. Richards, who has twice been named to the Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll, graduated in December 2008 with her bachelor's degree in history.
Nominated by each institution's director of student-athlete support services and media relations offices, the women's basketball academic all-league squad consisted of 34 first team members combined with nine on the second team. First team members have recorded a 3.20 or better GPA, while the second team are those with a 3.00 to 3.19 GPA. To qualify student-athletes must maintain a 3.00 GPA or higher either cumulative or in the two previous semesters and have participated in 60 percent of her team's scheduled contests.
Since the formation of the Big 12 for the 1996-97 season, CU's women's basketball team has had 57 Academic All-Big 12 selections, including 38 first team honorees.
AGAINST RANKED TEAMS: Colorado is 50-117 all-time against ranked teams, after falling to No. 21 (WBCA) Kansas State on March 7. The Buffaloes are 0-10 this season against ranked teams and 3-14 over the past two years. Prior to the 2007-08 season, the Buffs had suffered 23 straight losses against ranked opponents from 2004-07.
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.
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 was not rescheduled in 2008-09.
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).
HOUSTON TO MISS SEASON, DALE RETURNS: Junior guard Whitney Houston missed 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 fared better than the Big 12 coaches preseason prediction in the first three seasons under Kathy McConnell-Miller:
Season Preseason Actual
2008-09 11th 12th
2007-08 11th 9th
2006-07 11th t-7th
2005-06 12th 11th
TOUGH SCHEDULE: Colorado faced a tough schedule with 18 games (including Thursday's Big 12 Championship contest) against 2008 NCAA or WNIT tournament teams. Seven of CU's opponents are currently ranked in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches and six are in the Associated Press Top 25, and it has been as many as eight during various points of the season. Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Baylor are in the Top 10 of both.
HOME AT THE CECC: Colorado is traditionally tough at home with a 330-106 all-time record at the Coors Events/Conference Center (.757). The Buffaloes have won 10 or more games in a season at the CECC in 20 of the previous 31 years. The Buffaloes have enjoyed five undefeated seasons (1980-83, 1992-94) at the CECC.
BUFFS ON TV: Colorado's regular season schedule featured seven games that were televised either regionally or nationally, all at home and on FSN Rocky Mountain. Colorado was 2-5 in televised games during the regular season and all Big 12 Championship games will be televised as well. First round games are televised by COX Cable in the Oklahoma City area. All remaining games from the quarterfinals to the championship are televised nationally on FSN. CU has appeared on 72 regional or national telecasts over the past eight seasons.