Women's Hoops: Dores Face Colorado Tonight!

Wind the calendar back to March 19. The Vanderbilt Commodores are hosting the Colorado Buffs in the second round of the NCAA tournament for the right to advance to the Midwest regional finals in Denver. It's a bruising battle, and when the dust clears, two teams are heading to Colorado -- the Commodores riding their 65-59 victory to a date in the Pepsi Center, and the Buffs to begin the long offseason.

Now back to the future. It's Thursday night, November 15, and once again, it's do-or-die as the #3 Commodores host the #12 Buffs in the semi-finals of the Women's NIT. The winner earns the right to play the winner of the game between #1 Connecticut and unranked, but dangerous, North Carolina. And both teams return virtually intact.

So we can reasonably expect a replay of last year's game, right?

Wrong, according to Vanderbilt Head Coach Jim Foster.

"I don't necessarily think it's going to be a game that's similar," says Coach Foster. "We're different than we were last year. Even in our offenses we've added three or four little wrinkles that make us a different basketball team than the one Colorado played last year."

And, according to Coach Foster, the circumstances were different, too. "It will be an interesting chest match for this time of the season. But last year was an NCAA touranment game. They had a chance to go back to Denver to host the regional. The emotion of it -- it was a fist fight. I think this will be more of a basketball game."

So let's wipe the slate clean and take a look anew at the team that will take the court in Memorial Gym Thursday night.

Colorado is led by one of the best backcourts in the country. Last year, 5'6 senior point guard Mandy Nightingale averaged 14.0 ppg while shooting 39.7% from 3-point range. Nightingale was an alternate for the national team that competed in the World University Games in Beijing in August. Her partner in the backcourt, Jenny Roulier, who averaged 11.1 ppg last year while shooting 43.8% from behind the arc, was a starter for the World University Games team, averaging 9.3 points per game.

The Buffaloes have two true centers. 6'4 senior Britt Hartshorn averaged 12.1ppg and 6.3 rpg last season, and 6'5 sophomore Tera Bjorklund averaged 9.7 ppg and 3.5 rpg. Bjorklund played for the USA junior national team which won the bronze medal in the junior world championships held in the Czech Republic. Stronger and more experienced, Bjorklund has taken over the starting position from Hartshorn, who has been hampered by a hip pointer in CU's early games. In her two games this year, Bjorklund has scored a total of 43 points and pulled down 19 rebounds.

The forward position hasn't been especially productive for Colorado. Junior Linda Lappe will be sidelined at least until Christmas following ankle surgery. 6'2 junior Sabrina Scott was hampered by back problems last year and missed part of the preseason due to a broken finger. In the two games so far this year, starting forwards have been 5'10 senior Eisha Bohman, who averaged 6.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game last year and 6'2 sophomore Randie Wirt, who averaged 3.5 ppg and 5.7 rpb as a freshman. In those two games, Scott has scored a total of 10 points off the bench.

Both teams believe that they're stronger than last year, and both hope to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament when March rolls around. If you live in the Nashville area, and if you haven't seen the women's team lately, this is a golden opportunity to take a look. Tip off is at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Memorial Gym. Plenty of tickets are still available. Cost is $10, and all tickets are general admission.

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