March 24, 2002
GAME: No. 3 Colorado (24-10) vs. No. 1 Oklahoma (30-3).
REGIONAL: West, Final.
TIME: Monday, 9:30 p.m. EST.
SITE: Boise State Pavilion, Idaho.
Throughout the season, the Big 12 distinguished itself as the best conference in the nation, consistently placing seven teams in the Top 25.
Now one of those squads is guaranteed its first-ever trip to the Final Four, as Oklahoma and Colorado meet to decide the West Regional championship.
The top-seeded Sooners have won eight straight, including a 72-62 win over conference rival Texas Tech in the regional semifinals on Saturday.
"We're three games from the championship," said Big 12 player of the year Stacey Dales, who scored 15 points against the Lady Raiders. "This is a stage where we haven't been before. The sky is the limit."
In getting the Sooners to that stage, coach Sherri Coale has been relying on a very short bench. Against Texas Tech, she used just six players - four of whom scored in double figures.
"We had lots of opportunities tonight to go with a small lineup," Coale said. "We've got four of the best guards in the country and it helped us to make some mismatches."
While Oklahoma's guards were inflicting damage from the perimeter, 6-foot-1 forward Caton Hill scored 15 points and had 14 rebounds.
Now the Sooners are within one game of joining the Oklahoma men's team in the Final Four. To do that, they'll need to record their second win of the season against the Buffaloes. On Jan. 2, Oklahoma beat Colorado 78-67.
Colorado, which defeated Stanford 62-59 on Saturday, also features a dangerous perimeter game. Guard Mandy Nightingale leads the squad with 13.5 point per game, while her backcourt mate, Jenny Roulier, averages 12.5.
But like the Sooners, the Buffs can also pound the ball inside when needed, as 6-5 center Tera Bjorklund scored 10 of her 17 points in the second half to secure the win over Stanford.
Knowing they have other options when Nightengale and Roulier are not shooting well gives the Buffaloes confidence as they prepare to meet the Sooners.
"We're proud of that," forward Randi Wirt said. "We don't have a superstar."
Oklahoma leads the all-time series with Colorado 31-13.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Colorado - F Sabrina Scott (7.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg), F Eisha Bohman (7.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg), C Bjorklund (12.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg), G Nightengale (13.4 ppg, 4.8 apg), G Roulier (12.5 ppg, 2.6 apg). Oklahoma - F Hill (12.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg), F Jamie Talbert (7.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg), G Rosalind Ross (11.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg), G LaNeishea Caufield (17.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), G Dales (16.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4.9 apg).
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Colorado - At-large bid, Big 12 Conference, defeated No. 14 Southern 88-61, first round, defeated No. 6 LSU 69-58, second round, defeated No. 2 Stanford 62-59, regional semifinal. Oklahoma - Automatic bid, Big 12 tournament champion, defeated No. 16 Hartford 84-52, first round, defeated No. 9 Villanova 66-53, second round, defeated No. 4 Texas Tech 72-62, regional semifinal.
ALL-TIME TOURNAMENT RECORD: Colorado - 15-9, 10 years. Oklahoma - 9-4, 5 years.