In the clutch

For the U women’s basketball team, the third time truly was the charm.

After already suffering two heartbreaking last-second losses this season, the Utes finally got one to fall their way Saturday afternoon, as Shona Thorburn hit a jumper with five seconds remaining in overtime, helping the Utes slip past Wyoming, 69-67.

“We knew what we had to do, and we got it done,” Utah head coach Elaine Elliott said. “It sure helps, emotionally, to get this one.”

Still wavering from the shock of their last-second home loss to TCU on Thursday night, the Utes came out sluggish in the first half, which contributed to their falling behind 34-23 at the break, but it wasn’t something the coaching staff would allow to continue.

“There was a lot of self-pity going on in the first half, and we got into our own heads and got down,” Elliott said. “We called them on it in the locker room, and they came out and had a great second half.”

The Cowgirls took a 13-point lead early in the second half, but the Utes put together a 16-6 run to pull within three points (45-42) with 11:40 to play.

The teams continued to trade baskets, and the Cowgirls were able to hold the Utes off until Thorburn grabbed a rebound off a Jessica Perry free-throw miss and put it back up for a layup, to give the Utes a 59-58 lead with 1:10 remaining in regulation.

Wyoming’s Erin Hicks then hit a layup with 40 seconds remaining, giving the lead back to the Cowgirls.

The Utes’ Julie Larsen missed a jumper with 13 seconds left, and Hicks hit one free throw to give the Cowgirls a two-point lead.

But Larsen immediately made up for the missed shot by netting a jumper while being fouled with one second left, tying the game at 61.

She missed the free throw, but the Utes bolted out to a 67-61 lead in overtime, only to have the Cowgirls answer with six-straight points, tying it at 67 with 14 seconds left in the extra period.

Thorburn hit her jumper to give the Utes the 69-67 lead, and the Cowgirls last-second half-court prayer failed to even reach the rim as time expired.

“It was nice to have her last-second heave not go in,” Elliott said.

Utah’s three seniors led the team in their final regular-season game. Kim Smith scored 26 points, Thorburn tacked on 10 and Larsen added nine points.

The Utes snapped the Cowgirls five-game winning streak in the victory and sealed a No. 2 position in the upcoming Mountain West Conference tournament.

They’ll face the No. 7 seed, Air Force, Wednesday at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

The game will be aired live on CSTV, with a noon tip-off.

If the Utes win, they’ll face the winner of New Mexico and UNLV in the semifinals Friday, and the winner of that game will play in the MWC Championship on Saturday.