Smith leads Utah women over Beavers

Kim Smith erupted in the second half of Utah’s 62-53 victory over Oregon State Thursday night, scoring the final seven points for the Utes to hand the Beavers their first loss of the season.

Oregon State senior Kim Butler played a physical first half against Smith, holding her to just two field goals and six points. But Smith was ready to go in the second half.

Whenever the Beavers would pull within striking distance of taking the lead from the Utes during the second half, Utah turned to their senior leader, and Smith responded by scoring 16 of the final 25 points for the Utes.

Oregon State made a charge with 15:37 remaining in the game to pull within seven points of Utah, but back-to-back steals converted into easy layups for Smith and Shona Thorburn helped the Utes maintain a double-digit lead. The Beavers made another late rally with 5:04 left in the game as Mandy Close hit a jumper to pull Oregon State to a 46-41 deficit, but Heidi Carlsen drilled the only made three-point shot for the Utes in the second half to give the Utah a 49-41 advantage.

Tough defense and strong offense from Smith helped Utah to hold them off the rest of the way.

Although Utah led the entire game, mistakes kept Oregon State in the game.

“Turnovers were the big key that prevented us from pulling away,” Utah head coach Elaine Elliott said. “We have turned the ball over a lot in the last few games and that is something we are really trying to improve on. I don’t attribute that to the greatness of our opponents, I think we are just a young team.”

Ute senior Julie Larsen had another big game in her first start of the year, scoring 14 points while shooting 66 percent (4-6) from the field.

“The team helped me to get open shots,” Larsen said. “It helped me to get on an roll and score when needed.”

Shauna Brouillard was strong in the paint for Utah, pulling down 11 rebounds-six offensive-in 24 minutes of action.

“Shauna was just a force on the boards,” Utah head coach Elaine Elliott said. “She really did a nice job for us, and (Jessica Perry) has been solid for us. It’s really critical. We’re not going to win with two or three kids.”

It was the 100th career start for Smith and Shona Thorburn for Utah, and Smith’s 96th game where she scored in double-figures. The Beavers were led by Butler with 16 points, as Close (13 points), Anita Rivera (11 points) and Casey Nash (10 points) also scored in double figures for Oregon State.

The Utes will face Loyola Marymount Saturday at the Huntsman Center at 3 p.m. for their second game of a four-game home stand.

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