UC Santa Barbara 76

(26-6, 17-1 Big West)

Colorado 49

(22-8, 11-5 Big 12)

    11:30 PM ET, March 20, 2004

    The Thunderdome, Santa Barbara, California

    1 2 T
    UCSB 41 3576
    COLO 26 2349

    Top Performers

    UC Santa Barbara: M. Fisher 20 Pts, 4 Reb

    Colorado: T. Bjorklund 15 Pts, 6 Reb

    Gauchos please partisan crowd

    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.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 76 49
    FG Made-Attempted 25-56 (.446) 12-43 (.279)
    3P Made-Attempted 2-12 (.167) 2-9 (.222)
    FT Made-Attempted 24-29 (.828) 23-33 (.697)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 20 (0/0) 24 (0/0)

    Game Leaders

    PointsM. Fisher 20T. Bjorklund 15
    ReboundsJ. Green 7T. Bjorklund 6


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