Women’s basketball dominates year-end conference honors

The U women’s basketball team might not have been the outright winners of the Mountain West Conference regular season title, but they were definitely the outright winners of the season-ending conference awards.

U juniors Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn were named conference Co-Players of the Year, and the Utes’ lone senior, Lana Sitterud, was named Defensive Player of the Year.

In three years as a Ute, Smith has won the conference Player of the Year award three times. Her freshman season she won the honor outright, and last season she shared the honor with UNLV’s RanDee Henry.

Smith, who typically plays the small forward position, finished the regular season as the MWC’s leader in both scoring and rebounding with averages of 17.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. She ended the season ranked in the top 15 in the conference in 12 of 13 major statistical categories and recorded 12 double-doubles-also a conference best.

“There was no doubt that Kim should get her third conference Player of the Year award,” said U head coach Elaine Elliott. “To be able to improve the way she has under increasingly difficult conditions is a testament to the kind of player she is.”

Thorburn, the Utes’ point guard, finished the regular season as the conference leader in assists, averaging 6.52 per game. Thorburn also led the MWC in scoring in conference games with an average of 19.4 points and was ranked third in the conference in overall scoring with an average of 15.7 points per game.

Elliott said that after Thorburn’s impressive run during conference games the coaches of the MWC couldn’t choose between Thorburn and Smith for the conference Player of the Year award-so ultimately they chose both.

“Shona truly had a conference season that was just as worthy of consideration for Player of the Year honors as what Kim had done,” Elliott said.

Along with their Player of the Year honors, Smith and Thorburn were both named to the All-MWC First Team.

After a season that was at times trying, U head coach Elaine Elliott said it was fun for the leaders of her team to be recognized.

“It’s great for them to be honored this way,” Elliott said.

Sitterud, a three-time captain for the Utes, finally received recognition for the contributions she has made to the team when she was named Third-Team All-MWC and Defensive Player of the Year.

Sitterud finished the season ranked third in the conference in steals with 2.24 per game.

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