CU women's basketball preview

THURSDAY: The Colorado Buffaloes (20-13) host the Villanova Wildcats (19-14) in a 7 p.m. game at Coors Events Center in Boulder.

BROADCAST: Radio - KKZN 760 AM, with Mike Rice doing play-by-play and Carol Callan with color commentary. A free live video stream is available on BuffsTV at www.cubuffs.com

STORYLINES: This is the third round of the Women's NIT. ... The winner will face the winner of tonight's Missouri State at Oklahoma State game. ... CU is 9-3 all-time in the WNIT, including 7-3 in Boulder. ... The Buffs are 31-19 in postseason play. ... CU averaged 60.8 points per game, while Villanova averages 58.0 per game. ... The Wildcats will likely play without top scorer and rebounder Laura Sweeney (14.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg). Sweeney injured her hand in Villanova's first-round win against American and is "extremely doubtful" for tonight, according to the team's sports information department. ... Villanova is one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country, averaging 8.2 successful 3-pointers per game. ... This is CU's first game against a Big East school since an 80-54 win over Seton Hall on Dec. 6, 2009, in Boulder. CU is 11-8 against the Big East. ... CU's Meagan Malcolm-Peck needs two 3-pointers to become the 12th Buffs to hit 80 in her career.

KEY STAT: This season, Villanova has made 269 3-pointers in 796 attempts (33.


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8 percent). By comparison, CU, which also shoots the 3 a lot, has 166 in 573 attempts (29.0 percent).

COACHES: Linda Lappe is 38-29 in her second season at CU and 87-65 overall. Harry Perretta is 617-392 in his 34th season at Villanova and overall.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado - G Brittany Wilson, 5-7, So., 9.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.8 apg; G Chucky Jeffery, 5-10, Jr., 15.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.7 apg; G Jasmine Sborov, 6-1, Fr., 2.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg; G/F Meagan Malcolm-Peck, 6-2, Jr., 4.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg; F Julie Seabrook, 6-3, Sr., 7.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg. Villanova - G Rachel Roberts, 5-9, Jr., 8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 56 3-pointers; G Jesse Carey, 5-10, Jr., 1.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.0 apg; G Lindsay Kimmel, 6-0, Sr., 4.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg; F Lauren Burford, 6-0, Fr., 8.4 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 62 3-pointers; F Taylor Holeman, 6-1, Fr., 2.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg.

SERIES: Villanova leads 3-1. CU won the most recent meeting, 64-58, on March 27, 2008, in the third round of the WNIT in Boulder. All four games have been decided by six points or less.

UP NEXT: : The winner will face either Oklahoma State or Missouri State in the WNIT quarterfinals.

Colorado's women's basketball team has gone up against teams that like to shoot the 3-pointer.

Oregon hit 7.7 3-pointers per game this season; Arizona made 6.3 per contest.

What the Buffs (20-13) see Thursday night from Villanova, however, will be different. The Wildcats (19-14) have connected on 8.2 3-pointers a game this season and they shoot 24.1 times per game from beyond the arc.

"This is the best 3-point shooting team that we've faced and probably will face all season long," CU head coach Linda Lappe said. "That's what they try to get. They run a lot of things to get open 3s. If your hands aren't up and if they're open, they make them."

CU allowed 10 3-pointers in a loss to Oregon on March 1 and 11 3-pointers in a win over Weber State on Dec. 17. Villanova has connected on 10 or more 3s in nine different games and finished nine in four others.

"We haven't seen that yet so far, so that'll be a big change for us," CU freshman Jasmine Sborov said. "We just have to really stay focused on our principles and not get caught up watching the ball. They're just spotting up and ready to shoot 3s."

Villanova, in addition to shooting 3-pointers, is a solid defensive team. The good news for CU is that during its current 4-1 stretch, the Buffs have defeated four defensive-minded teams. That means the Buffs are doing good things on defense, too.

After struggling during the middle of the season, the Buffs are back to being aggressive on defense, going after loose balls, etc., Sborov said.

"Now that we have that (intensity) back, it's definitely taken us to the next level," she said.

Facing Villanova will provide another challenge and perhaps the biggest one yet, because the Wildcats have great discipline. They've averaged just 12.1 turnovers per game (five less than CU).

"I feel like our defense has been pretty solid, but these guys test it," Lappe said. "That's what is going to be really fun. I think it's going to be a lot of fun for our players, I think it's fun for our staff.

"You want this team at the end of the year when hopefully you're at your best defensively, and I think we're at our best defensively."

Painful memory

Lappe's last game as a CU player came against Villanova, and it didn't end well.

Playing in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament, Villanova knocked off CU 53-51 on March 29, 2003, in Knoxville, Tenn.

CU led 39-28 with 15:45 to play in the game, but Villanova turned it on after that. The Wildcats shut down the Buffs and starting draining 3s to pull off the win.

"The bottom line is they execute their system perfectly," Lappe was quoted in USA Today after the game. "They're in the elite eight. I'd say they're a pretty dang good team."

Villanova head coach Harry Parretta led the 'Cats to that win, and he still leads them today. He also still runs the spread offense that gave CU and so many other teams fits back in 2003.

This week, Lappe said she still remembers preparing to play that offense. She, painfully, remembers how things turned sour that night. She also remembers it was how her college career ended.

"Last game of your career, you're going to remember it more no matter who it is," she said.

Notable

In the WNIT opener, CU matched its season high with 27 turnovers. In the second round against South Dakota, the Buffs had a season-low nine. "It was just a matter of being very sloppy in one game and being very mentally focused in the next," Lappe said. ... CU is one of three Pac-12 teams still playing. Stanford is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, while Washington defeated Oregon State on Tuesday to become the first team into the WNIT quarterfinals. ... Tonight's projected starters are Chucky Jeffery, Brittany Wilson, Meagan-Malcolm-Peck, Julie Seabrook and Jasmine Sborov. CU is 4-2 with that combination in the lineup. ... CU shot 40.3 percent from the floor in Monday's win at South Dakota. The Buffs are 14-0 when shooting at least 40 percent, but have hit that mark just five times in the past 22 games.