No. 19 Ute women return home to face Rebels

The red-hot Ute women’s basketball team returns to action Wednesday night when it defends its six-game winning streak while hosting the UNLV Rebels at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes (19-5, 10-3 MWC) enter the game having won 10 of their last 11 contests, which has helped them to hurdle six spots in The Associated Press poll this week to a No. 19 position.

Not only has Utah been winning games, but they’ve also been dominating their opposition. They’ve beaten their last six opponents by an average of 21 points, or a score of 73-52.

The Ute seniors have been particularly responsible for the success of the team, as Kim Smith, Shona Thorburn and Julie Larsen have been able to lead the Mountain West Conference in just about every category this season.

Smith just became the Mountain West Conference and Ute women’s record holder for career points and is among the top five in the MWC for scoring (first, 19.5 ppg), rebounding (second, 8.0 rpg) and field goal percentage (third, 53.9 percent).

Thorburn is sixth in the nation and tops in the MWC in assists per game (6.79) and is fourth in the conference with 2.08 steals per game. Julie Larsen leads the MWC and is second in the nation in three-point field goal percentage (50 percent) and is first in the MWC in free-throw percentage (89.1 percent).

Also emerging as a strong presence off the bench for the Utes is freshman Morgan Warburton, who has averaged 9.25 points and six rebounds per game over the last four games, while playing an average of 20.5 minutes in those games.

UNLV (15-8, 7-5 MWC) welcomes back senior Sherry McCracklin, who returned from injury to lead the Rebels in a 74-57 thumping of Colorado State last Saturday.

McCracklin spent two games on the bench recovering from a concussion she received late in the second half in the Rebels’ loss to Wyoming on Feb. 4. She appeared to be back in playing shape Saturday with 15 points and six rebounds in the victory over the Rams.

The Utes will also have to keep an eye on junior forward Kisha Lee who scored 16 points and grabbed six boards against Utah in their last match-up played a month ago in Las Vegas.

The Utes are 11-1 at home this season, where they’ve beaten opponents by an average margin of 23 points.

Game time is set for 7 p.m.

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