Utes’ win streak ends at the Pit

The nine-game win streak came to an end last night as the No. 25 U women’s basketball team (19-5, 9-1 MWC) suffered its first loss in more than six weeks.

Facing the New Mexico Lobos on the road, the Utes were defeated in a 49-36 heartbreaker in the Pit in front of a crowd of more than 11,500 fans.

The Utes came into the game with history on the other team’s side. Utah had lost three of its last four games in the Pit, and New Mexico hadn’t lost a Mountain West Conference home game in nearly three years. That string continued.

The game, which had all the makings of a New Mexico blowout for the first 25 minutes, turned out to be a thriller by the end. After trailing by 14 points early in the second half, the Utes narrowed the margin to three, but missed a three-point shot with time running out to lose in devastating fashion.

In a miserable first half, the Utes shot a season-low 22 percent from the field, making just five of 23 attempts. Limited by New Mexico’s stifling (and nationally ranked) defense, Utah only managed to score 14 points in the entire first half, also marking a season low.

New Mexico, on the other hand, took advantage of a lackluster defensive effort by the Utes, jumping out to a solid first-half lead of 11 points. Junior Lindsey Arndt led the Lobos in the first half. Her 12 points and nine rebounds provided a major boost to the Lobos’ attack.

The Lobos held Utah without a field goal for the final 11 minutes of the first half and the first three minutes of the second half, giving the Lobos a chance to open a 14 point lead-its largest lead of the night.

For the fourth consecutive game, Utah needed hot perimeter shooting from junior Lana Sitterud to recover from an offensive lapse. In the last three games, Sitterud has been red-hot from beyond the arc, with a three-point shooting percentage of .590 during that span. Her three threes on five attempts kept the Utes in the game against the Lobos, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

After a slow start, head coach Elaine Elliott applauded her team’s effort for sticking with it and not giving up, but also chided them for not making the plays when it counted.

“It turned out to be a good game,” Elliott said. “Everything but the end. Our kids never laid down and gave up. If only they played like that before we got down, we might be talking about a win right now instead of a loss. We were soft and they took advantage.”

More importantly, Elliott was disappointed in her team’s reliance on the shot as a means of winning.

“When you’re not shooting well, you have to be able to do other things,” Elliott said. “You have to get the loose balls and crash the boards and do the little things. We weren’t shooting well and we didn’t find another way to win.”

Sophomore Kim Smith led the night with 13 points and 11 rebounds, which marked her sixth career double double.

Reeling from the loss, the Utes will have a chance to redeem themselves Saturday afternoon when the team concludes its current road-trip with a game against the MWC’s last-place team, the Air Force Falcons.

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