Women’s Hoops Set to Take on NWBL

By and

The first preseason game of the year for the Utah women’s basketball team didn’t provide the Utes with much of a challenge, and this Saturday’s second and final exhibition likely won’t either.

But then, U coach Elaine Elliott didn’t schedule opponents like Mirabel Banska Bystrica and the National Women’s Basketball League Elite to give her team a tough test?

She did it to see what improvements a team that lost two starters and two of its top reserves from a year ago needs to make.

“As always, the best thing about having an exhibition game is to get a chance to evaluate our team in a setting different from playing against ourselves,” Elliott said.

Despite outscoring Mirabel 37-15 in the second half of their Nov. 2 game to secure a 37-point victory, the Utes gave their coach plenty of things to look at.

Though the team started four seniors, Utah looked sluggish and confused at times, and All-Conference center Lauren Beckman was the only U player who looked at ease on the court, as she went on to finish with 24 points and 9 rebounds.

However, while Elliott knows that the rest of her seniors will come around, she remains concerned about a bench that is primarily comprised of newbies.

“[The roster is] an interesting mix, with four seniors mixed in with sophomores and freshmen with no measurable game experience, other than [starting point guard] Kelsy Stireman,” Elliott said.

Beckman, however, was confident the supporting cast would eventually coalesce with the returnees.

“We’ve got a group of seniors who’ve played together for four years now, but we’re bringing in some younger players,” she said. “Maybe they don’t know the tempo of the game yet, but it will come to them.”

In the meantime, getting in some valuable practice at the NWBL’s expense can’t hurt.

This is the third time the Utes have faced the Elite; they are 2-0 thus far (winning by a 79-64 score in ’99, and extending the margin to 81-41 last season), and likely to keep their undefeated streak going, if their preseason ranking of 25th in the nation is any indication.

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