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NCAA COLLEGE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Women's Basketball Notes

March 18, 2000|MITCH POLIN

UC Santa Barbara has been in this position before.

The Gauchos are making their fourth consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament and sixth since 1992.

But this is the first time they will be the host team for the first two rounds.

Fourth-seeded Santa Barbara (30-3) plays 13th-seeded Rice (21-9) at 9 tonight in a West Region first-round game at the Thunderdome.

The Gauchos never have advanced beyond the second round, but Coach Mark French said there is no telling what a difference playing before a boisterous sellout crowd of nearly 6,000 will make.

"The opportunity is here for us and I hope we can take advantage of it," French said.

Santa Barbara begins the tournament with a 26-game winning streak, longest of any NCAA tournament team, men's or women's. The Gauchos also have won 25 consecutive home games.

Rice will be making its first tournament appearance. The Owls, who are allowing opponents only 58.9 points a game, are led by guard Marla Brumfield with a 15.1-point average.

That should provide an intriguing matchup against the Gauchos, who are the nation's fourth-highest scoring team with an 81.6-point average. They are led by All-American guard Erin Buescher, who averages 17.3, and forward Kristi Rohr.

Fifth-seeded North Carolina (18-12) plays 12th-seeded Maine (20-10) in the first game at 7. The winners meet Monday night.

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