Heading into the Cougars’ lair

The U women’s basketball team goes to Provo Saturday to face archrival BYU in a 3 p.m. contest in the Marriott Center.

The Cougars (11-6, 2-2) have a core of upperclassmen that would love nothing more than to hand the Utes (14-5, 3-1) their first loss in the Marriott Center since the 2001-2002 season.

Though BYU has no individual standouts on their team, they have a group of players that could give the U some trouble. What BYU lacks in star power is made up with in gritty play and a strong post presence.

Seniors Kristin Kozlowski and Danielle Cheesman join junior Ambrosia Anderson as one of the toughest frontcourts in the Mountain Conference. All have scoring averages of more than 10 points per game and Cheesman is third in the conference in rebounds with an average of 9.2 per contest. The three forwards have a lot to do with BYU’s No. 1 conference ranking in field goal percentage. They take safe shots that get the job done.

Julie Sullivan, the Cougars’ senior point guard, is the other player who could present some problems. She will be guarded by U junior Shona Thorburn, who has excellent defensive skills, but Sullivan has proven in the past that she can frustrate the Utes.

U head coach Elaine Elliott said that playing a BYU team with so many upperclassmen will be a challenge.

“[BYU is] a team with three seniors and a junior in their top five,” Elliott said. “So they definitely think they need to get it done.”

BYU isn’t the only team with its heart set on winning, according to Thorburn.

“Being the powerhouse in Utah is always on our minds when we play BYU…It’s an in-state rivalry so we definitely want to beat them,” Thorburn said.

Thorburn and Kim Smith, the duo that has dominated MWC basketball since they were freshmen, have never lost to BYU in four career attempts, including two victories in the Marriott Center.

“We’ve had some success there,” Elliott said. And that always helps your confidence.”

The way Thorburn looks at it, playing in the Marriott Center isn’t all that different from the Huntsman Center.

“We have a bus that goes down so we have some fans in the stands,” Thorburn said. “It’s kind of like playing at home because you get to sleep in your bed.”

If the Cougars win on Saturday, then they will move into a tie with the Utes for third in the battle for the regular season conference title.

Should the Utes win, they will gain sole possession of second place and will stand just one game behind New Mexico.

Any way you put it, it’s a rivalry game, and it should be a good one.

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Utah at BYUSaturday, Jan. 29 3 p.m. at Provo, UT

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