The quest for vindication: U women face BYU today in second round of MWC tourney

DENVER-The U women’sbasketball team appears to beon a collision course for anotherMountain West ConferenceTournament fi nal againstrival New Mexico. The Utesare hoping for vindication afterlosing to the Lobos in lastyear’s fi nal.But the Utes (25-6), seededNo. 2 in the conference tournament,will have to get by theNo. 3-seed BYU Cougars (18-9) in Friday’s semi-fi nal at 2:30p.m.-if they hope to play theNo. 1-seed Lobos (25-4) in Saturday’schampionship game.The Utes already defeatedthe Cougars twice this year,but coming up with a thirdvictory might be tougher thanthe fi rst two. After a slow startto conference play, BYU wonseven of its last nine games tofi nish the regular season ona hot streak, third in the conference.BYU’s Julie Sullivan,recently named a fi rst-teamAll-MWC selection for thefi rst time in her career, is theleader on her team.She has given opposingguards fi ts since her freshmanyear with tenacious, in-yourfacedefense. Sullivan fi nishedthe year 10th in the conferencein scoring. She averaged 11.6points and stood fi fth in assistswith 3.86 dimes per contest.Sullivan led her team insteals with 1.26 per game.Should Utah defeat BYU inthe semi-fi nal game, it wouldset up a rematch of last year’sconference fi nal. The fi nalswill be played at 4 p.m. Saturdayafternoon in Denver’sPepsi Center.If the Utes win the conferencetournament, they will receivean automatic berth intothe NCAA Tournament. Butif they fail to win the tournament,there is a good chancethey will be overlooked by theNCAA Tournament SelectionCommittee when the at-largebids are handed out. Eventhough the MWC has two excellentteams in New Mexicoand Utah, it receives little respecton a national scale whenit comes to women’s basketball.This could be seen lastyear when the selection committeesnubbed the Utes afterposting a 24-7 overall recordand winning a share of theMWC regular-season title.This year the Utes have analmost identical record as lastyear, which doesn’t bode wellfor the Utes’ chances.”There are two teams in thisconference, New Mexico andUtah, that deserve to get intothe NCAA Tournament,” saidU point guard Shona Thorburn.”But after what happenedlast year, I think wehave to win at least a share ofthe regular season title andthe conference tournament ifwe’re going to get in.”[email protected]