On their way: U women get set for regular-season action

The women’s basketball team will begin regular season action Saturday afternoon, as it takes on the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State.

The Utes return all but one player from last year’s roster and have received a wide range of praise from several media outlets. They enter Saturday’s game ranked No. 21 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, along with No. 22 ranking from the Associated Press poll.

They also received 22 of 25 first place votes to win the Mountain West Conference.

Much of the early attention is due to the standout performances of senior Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn.

They are the reigning Co-Players of the Year in the MWC. Smith averaged 17.8 points and 8.9 rebounds per game last season and was placed on the preseason all-MWC team. She was also named the preseason Top Returning Player. Thorburn averaged 14.9 points and 6.5 assists per game last year and was also named to the preseason all-MWC team.

It also appears that Smith and Thorburn will receive strong support from Heidi Carlsen, Marie Warner and Morgan Warburton.

Carlsen has been an early surprise for the Utes, averaging 12.5 points per game while shooting 75 percent (9-12) from the field during their two preseason games. She has made six-of-seven three-point attempts in those games (85 percent).

Warner and Warburton have also chipped in during the preseason, where they have each averaged 8.5 points per game. Warburton, a freshman point guard, has also dished out 3.5 assists per game in the two early games.

Although the Utes seemed impressive in their first two exhibition games, they are ready to get the regular season going.

“When we play somebody else, we can just look at ourselves and focus on what we really need to do,” head coach Elaine Elliott said. “It’s for evaluation. We play with 14 kids, that’s not how you’re going to play the season.”

“We really want to start the (regular) season, we are anxious to get it rolling,” she said

Jacksonville State, which returns four starters from last year’s squad, has played one exhibition game this year, a 93-67 victory over UBBC APO Sports. In that game, five Gamecocks scored in double-digits, led by senior Cobie Carlise. She scored 21 points while shooting 64 percent (9-14) from the field.

Last year Jacksonville State finished 15-14 under first year head coach Dave Dagastino.

The game is at the Huntsman Center and starts at 3 p.m.

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