Buffs Display Strong Showing in Season Opener

The No. 20 University of Colorado women's basketball team opened the 2003-04 regular season in impressive fashion Friday night, defeating Old Dominion 84-67 in the opening round of the second annual WBCA Classic at the Coors Events Conference Center.

Freshman Emily Waner made her first collegiate appearance a memorable one for the Buffs, drilling five big three-pointers on her way to a game-high 17 points for CU. Senior and pre-season All-American center Tera Bjorklund was close behind her, going 5-for-8 from her post on the block for 16 points. Two other CU players scored in double figures; Veronica Johns-Richardson (12) and Kate Fagan (13), in a game that seemed to be owned by Colorado from the start.

"I thought we shot really, really well," CU head coach Ceal Berry said of her team's first performance of the regular season. "I thought our outside shooting from everywhere really made the difference in the game."

CU as a team drilled 12 threes on the night, with Fagan, Anna Nedovic, and Whitney Law combining for the seven bombs that Waner wasn't responsible for.

"They left me wide open", Waner, a Highlands Ranch native and graduate of Thunder Ridge High School, said of the looks she got against Old Dominion. "When I get those kinds of shots it's kind of my job to knock them down."

Colorado jumped on the Lady Monarchs early as Wagner nailed the first of her threes in back-to-back fashion from either side of the baseline, getting the crowd of 2,475 involved and lifting Colorado to an early 13-9 advantage less than five minutes in.

CU's rigid man-to-man was relentless against the Old Dominion attack in the first half, as the Lady Monarchs failed to exploit the seams CU left open underneath, assisting Colorado's guards in forcing consecutive transition layups by Johns-Richardson, lifting the Buff advantage to 21-12 with 13:00 to play in the first half.

CU fans suffered a scary moment with 12:16 in the first, though, when Tera Bjorklund fell awkwardly to the floor with a sprained left ankle after rolling off a screen from teammate Randie Wirt. Bjorklund remained on the floor for a long moment, before hobbling to her feat with the assistance of her teammates. She would be replaced by the 6-4 freshman Nedovic, but not before scoring her fifth and sixth points for CU on the night in the form of a 10-foot jumper from the left baseline. Bjorklund returned a little more than five minutes later with no sign of a limp.

Fagan nailed a three-pointer to expand the CU lead to seven; 29-22 with a little more than 7:00 remaining in the first, before bonus free throws from Shareese Grant pulled the margin back to five. Fagan would come up big again for the Buffs as the half wore down, converting a four-point play with 4:31 to five CU a nine-point spread, the largest of the game to that point.

Wagner connected on her third trey of the half with 1:03 on the clock, and the Buffs rode consistent play from Whitney Law and Anna Nedovic to a 45-35 halftime lead.

Maria Billingsley's third foul just three minutes into the second half prompted Ceal Berry to staff the same roster she'd used to close out the first, but the resilient Buffs responded well; keeping the Lady Monarchs at bay thanks to Emily Wagner's fourth three point bomb of the night. A sweeping left handed layup in the lane from Johns-Richardson increased the CU lead to 56-45 with 15:00 remaining.

Colorado's play only improved from there as CU's stingy defense held Old Dominion to just six points in the ensuing seven minutes, giving CU the room it needed to make the second half of the game much less closely contested than the first. The Buffs culminated a 14-6 run with a Kate Fagan three-pointer, lifting CU to a 20-point lead and eliminating any hope of an Old Dominion comeback.

With the victory, the Buffs are 28-1 in home openers since beginning play in the Coors Events Conference Center in 1973, and 24-5 in season openers during the same time. Colorado's only loss in a Boulder opener was at the hands of the underdog Michigan Wolverines in 1999.

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