Sweet redemption

After suffering a heartbreaking home loss to the Cougars just a month ago, the Utes returned the favor Wednesday night, belting No. 18 BYU in Provo 70-52.

“It feels good,” Ute senior Kim Smith said. “It’s a big rivalry, and it’s nice to end it right here on their court with a win.”

Smith poured in 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, and Shona Thorburn added 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds in the victory.

The Utes struggled at the start of the game, getting just one field goal to fall in the first eight minutes of action, which caused them to fall behind early, 12-4.

But it didn’t take the Utes long to wake up offensively, as they went on a 26-8 run to take a 30-20 lead with 4:21 remaining in the first half.

Utah’s Kim Smith (19 points per game) and BYU’s Ambrosia Anderson (18.5 points per game), the top two scorers in the MWC, led their teams early, as the Utes entered halftime with a 33-28 lead.

Anderson scored 12 points for the Cougars, while Smith dropped in 10 points for Utah at the break.

Anderson came out strong in the second half, scoring the first six points for the Cougars, and pulling BYU within four points (38-34) of the Utes with 16:22 on the clock.

But the Ute seniors-Smith, Thorburn and Julie Larsen-answered the call, scoring the next eight points to help the Utes build a 46-37 lead with 8:53 remaining.

U freshman Morgan Warburton then hit two quick three-point shots, and junior Camie Oakey made a three-point play to put Utah ahead 52-37.

Despite falling behind by a significant margin, the Cougars had one more surge to try to make a game of it. They went on a 9-5 run cut the deficit to 57-46 with 3:10 remaining in the final period, but the Utes were able to hold on by making their free-throws down the stretch, as they coasted to the 18-point win.

It was quite a different game from the match-up played a month ago in Salt Lake City when BYU’s Mallary Gillespie hit a shot at the buzzer to give the Cougars a 61-60 upset win over the Utes.

“We rebounded a little better than the first game, so we didn’t allow them many second chances,” Utah head coach Elaine Elliott said. “We’re just getting tougher.”

It was the Utes’ second victory over ranked opponents in just five days-they beat New Mexico at the Huntsman Center last Saturday.

“These were important for us to make our case, to beat the top teams, and know that we’ve got a postseason too,” Elliott said. “That’s big for us.”

The Utes will be back in action Saturday at 3:00 p.m., when they host San Diego State at the Huntsman Center.

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