U women come from behind to score critical home win against UNLV

Shona Thorburn scored 13 of the Utes’ final 20 points Thursday night, as the U women’s basketball team came from behind to defeat UNLV 63-55.

The Utes (16-5, 5-1 MWC) remained tied for the conference lead as the Rebels (11-9, 2-4) fell well behind in the race for the regular season conference title.

The Utes avenged last year’s overtime loss at home that cost the Utes’ sole possession of the regular-season Mountain West Conference title.

“It was a huge win for us,” Thorburn said. “They’re a tough team to play. They’re not like any other team we play in the conference. They play a different style of game, and when we play them, it’s always something new, so we’re glad to walk away with the win.”

The Utes found themselves in the same predicament they were in last year as they trailed UNLV by five, midway through the second half. But this year the results would be different. The Utes pulled it out in the end, but the Rebels made them earn it.

Thorburn, the Utes’ junior point guard, led the team in scoring for the fourth time in the last five games, finishing with 18 points-all of which came in the second half. She made a three-pointer at the 6:26 mark of the second half that stemmed a 10-2 UNLV run and kept the game from getting out of the Utes grasp.

“Shona’s been really aggressive lately, and she’s been getting to the hole,” said the Utes’ junior forward Kim Smith. “It’s really been helping us out because she’s creating opportunities that are paying off.”

Smith, the two-time MWC Player of the Year, came away with 16 points and seven rebounds.

The first half of Thursday night’s game started slowly, then built to a fury. The two teams scored only five points between them in the first five minutes. After that it was anybody’s game as both teams started hitting shots. By the end of the first half, the lead had changed hands 10 times and the Utes were clinging desperately to a one-point lead at 31-30.

Smith led all scorers in the first half with 12 points while Thorburn wreaked havoc on UNLV’s frontcourt. Thorburn didn’t score any points in the first half, largely because she was busy doing all the little things, most of which don’t show up on the stat sheet. She forced several turnovers by tying up defenders, forcing jump balls and confusing UNLV’s guards into making bad decisions. The Ute defense forced the Rebels to commit 13 first-half turnovers.

Thorburn, the MWC’s assist leader, finished the first half with five assists and by the end of the game had seven assists.

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