Back to work

The U women’s basketball team heads to Colorado Springs, Colo., Thursday for a conference battle with the Air Force Academy.

The Utes (13-4, 2-0 Mountain West Conference) have won five in a row and have never lost to the Falcons (5-9, 0-1 MWC).

In what usually turns into a blowout, the game against Air Force has been overshadowed by the recent accomplishments of the Utes’ head coach.

Last Saturday Elaine Elliott passed a milestone when she earned her 450th career victory as a head coach. In her 22nd season as the chief of Utah’s women’s basketball team, Elliott is the winningest coach in the history of U basketball-both men’s and women’s. Her career record is 450-182.

Rarely one to sing her own praises, Elliott is focused on picking up win No. 451 this Thursday as the Utes take on Air Force. Elliott refuses to give any special recognition to her 450th victory, and was only willing to say that she wouldn’t have lasted long if she weren’t a winner.

“I’m glad we have won games,” Elliott said. “Because I wouldn’t still be here if we hadn’t.”

Shona Thorburn, the Utes’ junior point guard, said that 450 wins was a remarkable accomplishment for a coach. She said that despite Elliott’s desire to downplay the achievement, it still meant something to her.

“It’s huge for her, even though she wouldn’t say it,” Thorburn said. “Obviously we are so proud of her. It is awesome to play for a coach who has 450 wins under her belt. She definitely knows what she is doing.”

Elliott will take her 450 wins of experience into a weekend that will be defined more by the Utes’ performance on Saturday against New Mexico than by whatever happens against Air Force.

But the Utes still have to defeat Air Force before they can worry about New Mexico. The Falcons are led by a couple of youngsters-sophomore Letricia Castillo and freshman Alecia Steele-which should mean good things for the program in a year or two.

Castillo and Steele are the only two Falcons averaging double digits in scoring this year, and Steele leads the team in rebounds with seven per contest.

The Utes are likely to cruise to victory against the Falcons. Failure to defeat Air Force would be a crushing blow to the Utes’ season-one from which they might not recover.

[email protected]

Utah at Air ForceThursday, Jan. 20 7 p.m. at Colordao Springs, Colo.

TV None Radio Hot Ticket 700 AM