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Gauchos please partisan crowd

3/21/2004

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) -- Even UC Santa Barbara coach Mark
French was surprised at how handily the Gauchos won their opening
NCAA tournament game.

Mia Fisher scored 20 points and the Gauchos defeated No. 17
Colorado 76-49 Saturday night to reach the tournament's second
round for the third consecutive year.

The 11th-seed Gauchos (26-6) took the Buffaloes out of the game
early. Eight times this season they held opponents to less than 20
first-half points; the Buffaloes managed just 26.

"I had no inkling we would be able to win by that large of a
margin," French said.

Santa Barbara will play ninth-ranked Houston, a 62-47 winner
over 14th-seed Wisconsin-Green Bay, on Monday night. The winner
advances to the East Regional semifinals in Hartford, Conn.

Sixth-seeded Colorado (22-8) started the season 17-2, but
struggled down the stretch. The Buffaloes went 5-6 in their final
11 games, including a loss to Oklahoma in their Big 12 tournament
opener.

"We did not improve after January," Colorado coach Ceal Barry
said. "We got off the path of improvement and we got worse."

It was their lowest-scoring game in 12 NCAA tournament
appearances. They were 12-of-42 from the floor for a season-low 29
percent. Only Ohio State and Idaho have shot better than 50 percent
against the Gauchos this season.

Colorado committed 13 of its 22 turnovers in the first half.

"We didn't handle their pressure well and made poor
decisions," Barry said. "Their crowd was into it and they were
playing well."

The host Gauchos found themselves in the unfamiliar position of
sitting on the visitors' bench and wearing their blue road uniforms
at the Thunderdome. But the partisan, raucous crowd of 3,012 made
up for it.

"Our home crowd really helps us. That made it really difficult
for Colorado to stem the tide," French said.

The highly anticipated matchup in the middle between 6-foot-8
Lindsay Taylor of Santa Barbara and 6-5 Tera Bjorklund of Colorado
was nullified by foul trouble. Taylor had nine points -- seven below
her average -- and six rebounds before fouling out with 7:18
remaining; Bjorklund led the Buffaloes with 15 points and six
rebounds.

"When you have two fouls, you don't want to get your third,"
Bjorklund said. "It does take away a little bit of
aggressiveness."

Randie Wirt added 12 points for Colorado. It was the final
college game for her, Bjorklund and Kate Fagen, who went 0-for-4
from the floor and finished with three points.

"The biggest thing was us not taking care of the ball," Fagen
said. "We knew they were going to come out and play pressure. We
gave them second shots."

Kristen Mann and Fisher dominated the first half with 14 points
each for the Gauchos, who lost to Colorado 81-54 in the second
round of the 1993 NCAA tournament. Mann finished with 16 points and
April McDivitt added 14. Fisher made 10 of 11 free throws.

"Knowing we didn't get the ball inside to Lindsay, I knew I had
to step up in the first half," Mann said. "If we wouldn't box
out, then I couldn't get the ball out on the break. That's my
favorite part of the game, not too much thinking, just go to the
basket."

Santa Barbara's fans booed once all night and that was before
tip-off. The Gauchos got a technical foul for failing to get their
starting lineup to the scorers' table 10 minutes before tip-off.

"Obviously, we'll have the lineup in on time against Houston,"
French said, smiling.

They led by five points when they outscored the Buffaloes 16-6,
including seven by McDivitt, to end the half ahead 41-26.

It got much worse for the Buffaloes. They were outscored 20-9 to
start the second half and trailed 61-35 with 10:26 remaining.
Playing with three fouls, Taylor scored six of Santa Barbara's
first eight points while Bjorklund picked up her third and fourth
fouls.

Colorado never made a dent in a deficit that was nearly 30
points for much of the final 10 minutes.