Balanced Buffs Dominate Cowgirls

The University of Colorado women's basketball team put all speculation regarding how they would perform following an eight-day holiday absence from the court to rest, as the Lady Buffs dismantled the visiting Wyoming Cowgirls 71-39 Sunday afternoon at the Coors Events Conference Center. Here is a game recap.

Colorado used several offensive runs which often reached double-digits before Wyoming was able to counter with any points of its own, as a stingy Buffalo defense held the struggling Cowgirls to 28.8 percent (15-32) from the field and forced 20 Wyoming turnovers.

"I felt like out offensive game in the first half was as good as any game we've played to date," Colorado head coach Ceal Barry said after the game. "I felt like we were clicking on all cylinders, which I was concerned about coming off the break."

The Buffaloes hadn't seen game action and, in fact, had practiced just twice since their 69-67 survival of USC in Los Angeles on Dec. 20.

Each of CU's nine players saw at least 10 minutes of action Sunday, a focal point of Barry's game plan once her team jumped out to an early double-digit lead.

"I really wanted to get the younger players in there," CU's coach of 21 seasons elaborated later. "I had three freshmen and a sophomore playing out there. Randie (Wirt) doesn't need game experience; Kate (Fagan) doesn't need game experience, and Tera (Bjorklund) doesn't need game experience, so I think the biggest thing was I wanted to get those younger players more experience."

Freshman guard Emily Waner, who's proven her own worth to the team since the start of the season, scored just six in 19 minutes of action, but other CU youngsters stepped in to fill the void nicely.

6-foot-4 freshman forward Anna Nedovic showed the 2,464 present that her potential contribution to her team extends beyond the low post. The Denmark native scored seven on a 3-for-5 effort, which included a 1-for-3 mark from the outside.

"When you're sitting on the bench and you can get five minutes of rest on the bench in a half, or even ten in the second half, it's nice," starting guard Kate Fagan said of her 18 minutes of action. "Just to be able to cheer on the kids who don't get to play as much, and to get the rest, it's a nice break."

With Fagan's help, and despite a slow shooting start by Colorado, the Buffs had no problem establishing tempo against a young Wyoming team which has eight freshmen on a roster which features just two returning starters.

After a three pointer from Wyoming forward Kristen Lenhardt tied the game at 3-3 just three in, Colorado ignited a season-best 17-0 run over the next five which saw each five of the CU players on the floor score at some point on the way to a 20-3 lead at the 12:00 mark.

The Cowgirls' non-existent first half offense began to sputter as the Colorado lead approached 20, when senior guard Brenda Pickup scored on a layup after beating Fagan on a cross-over, cutting the deficit to 15. The score would be the only tallied by any player other than Lenhardt in the first half, as the junior continued to contribute with a leaning shot in the lane two possessions later, making the score 22-7 with 10:47 to go in the first.

Threes from Fagan, as well as Waner and Sarah Lini off the bench highlighted one final first half run by the Buffaloes to close out the period; a 21-5 stretch over the final five minutes which ended with the Buffaloes owning a comfortable 43-12 halftime lead.

Wyoming's most impressive offensive spurt came in the opening minutes of the second half as junior Ashley Elliott became just the third Cowgirl to score in the game, converting layups on consecutive possessions to mark the first time Wyoming had scored more than three points in any one three-minute span in the game.

Barry kept her team well-paced throughout the second half even as the teams traded threes midway through the period. Colorado kept the Cowgirls at a constant 20-point deficit, executing its triangle offense based around the passing ability of Wirt Bjorklund regardless of the tempo of the game.

CU's defense held strong throughout, as the Buffs forced Wyoming into 23 three-point attempts, many of which were desperation shots as time expired on the shot clock.

The Buffaloes easily posted better offensive numbers than Wyoming throughout the contest; leading in field goal percentage (47 to 28), three-pointers made (9 to 7), and free throws (8-8 to 2-5).

Though such a winning margin over a floundering offense might be expected from a top-15 program, those close to the Buffs admit that they'll take any confidence boost they can get.

"We've had a lot of injuries and we really don't have enough players to have a good practice," Barry said. "It's helped to get the competition and these next few games before we get to the Big 12."

With the win, Colorado improves to 9-1 on the season; making this the second consecutive year the Buffs have won nine of their first ten games. Last season CU opened 3-1, and then reeled off eight games in a row before finally suffering its second loss of the season to Kansas State on Jan. 11.

CU has received its share of national attention coming of last year's Sweet 16 appearance. Their current No. 13 ranking in this week's USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches Poll is the highest Ceal Barry's team has been placed in a regular season poll since the conclusion of the 2000-01 campaign.

The Buffs were placed third in the Rating's Percentage Index, a BCS-style listing of teams according to their strength of schedule and subsequent quality wins and losses, heading into Sunday afternoon's game. According to the poll, Colorado ranks third among teams listed, while possessing the 19th most difficult schedule in the country.

Colorado continues with game two of the longest homestand of its season; a three-game stretch which will mark the end of CU's nonconference schedule on Jan. 3 when the Buffs host Buffalo.

CU's next test will come Tuesday night against Syracuse. Tip time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the CECC.

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