Women’s Hoops Wary of Early Road Trouble

Unless you play in the NFL, where road teams have won an astounding 49 percent of this year’s games, it’s generally agreed that home field or home court advantage counts for quite a bit.

For instance, the 2001 Denver Nuggets had a great 29-12 record when playing at their home arena, the Pepsi Center, but an 11-30 road mark relegated the team to an overall losing record and a lottery pick rather than a playoff spot.

The situation is not quite that dire for the Utah women’s basketball team, but the disparity between the Utes’ home and road play has been some source of concern for U coach Elaine Elliott.

Through the team’s first six games?split evenly between contests at the Huntsman Center and road venues?the Utes are a perfect 3-0 at home, but just 1-2 elsewhere.

Utah has been better at virtually everything when at home, as they outscore opponents by an average of 80-44 at the Huntsman Center?a margin that drops to 61-57 in away games.

Consequently, as the Utes head to Eugene, Ore., for their next game?a battle versus Pac-10 power Oregon?Elliott wants to end the trend of scoring 19 fewer points and allowing 13 more in away games, especially considering the matchup with the Ducks is the first of six straight road contests for the Utes.

“We seem to have extra confidence at home, but not on the road,” Elliott said. “The challenge now is to hit that comfort zone in road games.”

Specifically, Elliott is looking for consistent effort for all 40 minutes?a factor that cost the Utes in their 49-48 defeat at SMU?a team they beat by more than 30 a year ago?as they blew a 7-point lead in the last nine minutes and committed two turnovers in the final minute.

Senior shooting guard Erin Gibbons knows the U team can’t keep relying upon the shield of near invincibility they feel at home (as evidenced by last year’s 17-1 record at the Huntsman Center). Gibbons said that perhaps only a slight philosophical change could turn things around and turn these Utes into road warriors.

“We have to come up tough,” Gibbons said. “If we just come out strong from the very beginning, we should be OK.”

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