Buffs Walk Over Syracuse to Win

The No. 13 University of Colorado women's basketball team took advantage of a depleted Syracuse roster, while four Buffaloes scored in double figures, and CU easily dismissed the visiting Orangewomen 80-45 at the Coors Events Conference Center Tuesday night.

Freshman Emily Waner led Colorado in scoring with 17 in her team's highest offensive output since their Dec. 3 victory over Colorado State. Starters Randie Wirt, Tera Bjorklund, and Kate Fagan all followed suit with 14 a piece.

"I thought we had really good balance," CU head coach Ceal Barry said after the game. "They stayed with their game plan, they executed pretty well, but I though we shot really well from outside both the other day and then we continued it today."

Four Syracuse players were suspended indefinitely due to violations of the school's academic policies sometime before the team left New York early this week. Senior April Jean, sophomores Marchele Campbell and Tierra Jackson, and freshman Tracy Harbut did not travel with the team to Boulder.

Jackson, averaging 3.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, was a regular starter for the Orangewomen.

"When you're playing good team, any team from the Big East you've got to take advantage of anything you see," Fagan said. "That's something we can use. Having only two subs is something that we've gone through."

Five of the seven players that suited up for Syracuse played at least 30 minutes in the loss, with starting point guard Rochelle Coleman accounting for the majority of the Orangewomen effort; scoring a game-high 22 in a grueling 38 minutes on the floor.

No other Syracuse player had more than eight points on the night (five of the seven combined for just 15), which saw the Orangewomen shoot just better than 33 percent from the floor, and a lacking 7-for-27 from beyond the three-point line.

"I think (they were tired) a little, but I think that's to be expected," Wirt said of the visiting team's waning tenacity. "I thought mentally they were trying to stay in it as best they could but in the ends everything kind of weirds out on you."

Still, probably most impressive in Colorado's tenth win of the season was the 22 assists the Buffaloes posted in a game which was well in hand in the opening of the second half.

"I wish I knew the science behind it," Barry said of her team's unselfish play. "There are players out there that will look for open shots, but ours will pass it off when it isn't there."

Even if you couldn't tell it from the final score, a secure CU lead in the opening 15 minutes of the game was very much in doubt. There were five ties and three lead changes in the first half before a stifling 27-3 CU run at the end of the first and the opening of the second half spelled the end on any hope Syracuse had for an upset.

Randie Wirt got the CU scoring effort off to an early start, as the forward converted long jumpers on three consecutive possessions, lifting Colorado to an early 6-2 lead.

Syracuse was able to respond though, as a three-pointer from Sarah Wegrzynowicz with 14:05 to go in the first gave the Orangewomen their first lead of the game after missing four of their first five shot attempts.

Coleman continued to shoot lights-out for the Orangewomen midway through the first, hitting a jumper just inside the left wing three point line to give Syracuse a 17-15 lead. CU freshman Leslie Howard responded with a three, minutes after checking into the game, giving Colorado its first lead in over six minutes as the Buffs went back on top 18-17 with 8:04 left.

A fine left-handed post move from Bjorklund followed up by a quick three from Waner kept CU's momentum as well as their lead on the scoreboard, and a free throw from Veronica Johns-Richardson assured CU a four-point lead at the four-minute mark.

Colorado finally began to create separation from Syracuse as the first half wound to a close, as the Buffaloes finished their opening effort with an 11-0 run which featured key long balls from Johns-Richardson and a pair from Fagan, lifting Colorado to a more spacious 39-25 halftime lead.

CU opened the second half with a three from Waner, who started the second half after scoring five points in a 2-for-4 effort in the first. Waner's three increased the CU lead to 17, and a successful post move from Bjorklund on the ensuing possession gave Colorado a 44-25 lead less than three minutes into the second half.

Syracuse would not score a point in the second half until nearly six minutes in, after Krystalyn Elerbe stole a pass in the CU backcourt and converted a layup on the other end. The transition bucket broke a 24-0 Colorado run dating back to the final minutes of the second half, which the Buffaloes used to climb to a 51-27 lead.

Back-to-back threes from Fagan, who posted 22 points in CU's last meeting with the Orangewomen on New Year's Eve last year, lifted CU's lead to 66-32 with just under 10 minutes to go.

Syracuse never made a run for the lead over the last half of the final period, as the Buffaloes maintained better than a 24-point lead throughout.

The win propels Colorado to a remarkable 21-2 in nonconference play over the past two seasons; good enough for second-best over the same stretch all time. The record is 21-1 from 1992-94, with the 1992-93 squad posting a perfect mark in nonconference play. CU's sole loss during that stretch was a four-point overtime loss to No. 1 Tennessee in 1993.

Colorado wraps up the longest homestand of its season Jan. 3 against Buffalo (7:00 p.m. tip), before beginning conference play against the Baylor Bears in Waco on Jan. 7.

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