Senior Resolve

Three of Colorado's four senior women's basketball players have enjoyed some of the greatest success at CU of any class of players. Tera Bjorklund, Kate Fagan and Randie Wirt will be making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance when the Buffs play at UC-Santa Barbara Saturday in the NCAA first round (9:30 p.m. MT tip-off, ESPN2). The trio and their teammates don't want their ride to end in California.

Saturday night's game will be just the third game CU (22-7) has played in 17 days. And the CU players are anxious to get on the floor and get the loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 tourney out of their system. Head coach Ceal Barry said the loss refocused the team, particularly the seniors — including former juco transfer Maria Billingsley — a group that is counting its final days as Buffaloes.

"That Oklahoma loss really hit home to them," she said. "It was their last Big 12 Tournament, and I think they took it hard."

And there's a resolve among the seniors to extend their playing days.

"The other years, you always had next year," Wirt said of the seniors playing in their final NCAA tourney. "But if we lose, we're done. It makes it more exciting."

Bjorklund has tried to keep her mind on UCSB, and not on the end of the basketball road that's approaching.

"It's sad to think about it, really," she said. "I've had such a great four years here at Colorado, and have loved every second of it. I try not to think about it too much.

"For all of us to stay together for as long as we can is one of our main goals. There's all the winning, but being around all our teammates and the other people in the program — it would make it that much better to be able to keep that going for a while."

If No. 6-seed Colorado can get past No. 11-seed UCSB (25-6), the Big West Conference champions, they'll face the winner of the Houston-UW Green Bay game on Monday. The winner of that game advances to the East Regional in Hartford, Conn.

The Gauchos are making their eighth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. They are led by 6-foot-8 senior center Lindsay Mann, who averages 16.5 ppg, and 7.3 rpg. Mann is UCSB's all-time leading scorer, but she hasn't played against many centers like the one she'll face from Colorado.

At 6-5, Bjorklund is CU's second-leading all-time scorer, and should provide a challenge for Mann when UCSB tries to get her the ball.

"They're looking for her all the time," Bjorklund said. "She's their main focal point. I don't think she's come across many centers who are taller than 6-1. For their offense, all they've had to do is throw it up to her. I've got a little more size and hopefully I can be a little bit more distracting."

Barry likes how the Buffs match up with the Gauchos.

"They have a tall, thin center and so do we; they have a very competitive, talented power forward who plays 40 minutes, so do we; they have a point guard who's about 5-5, we have two of them," Barry said. "I think it's going to be the role players that make a difference."

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