Shona to the rescue (Women’s basketball)

Four-time MWC Player of the Year Kim Smith struggled through most of the U women’s first-round win over Middle Tennessee State, scoring only 13 points.

Luckily for the Utes, their second option isn’t exactly chopped liver.

In what would have been her final game in a Ute uniform, Thorburn came alive in the crucial minutes of Saturday’s 76-71 win to pull the Utes out of a big hole, eventually finishing with 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while shooting 8-for-8 from the foul line.

“She’s a winner,” Blue Raider coach Rick Insell said. “We knew coming in she was a great ballplayer. She wanted the ball (and) when she got the ball she was breaking us down.”

Even though Thorburn’s final numbers were lofty, what was most impressive was when and how she amassed them.

The MWC tournament MVP scored eight of her points in the final four-and-a-half minutes and was the focal point of a key game-changing sequence.

With 1:22 remaining in the game, the Raiders were clinging to a 68-67 lead when MTSU forward Krystle Horton stole the ball from Heidi Carlsen, setting up a fast break going the other way. But Thorburn was there and drew the charge on Tia Stovall, who had her layup taken away because of the offensive foul.

“I could tell (Stovall) wasn’t comfortable with the jump shot and was going to drive,” Thorburn said. “I was able to get there in time to draw the charge.”

On the ensuing possession, Thorburn continued to take matters into her own hands and converted on a three-point play after getting fouled on a layup of her own with 1:09 to play.

“I felt the person on my back, so I knew if I had a jump-stop I could draw some contact,” Thorburn said. “I had nice position, and the ball went in. I think that gave us some extra firepower to end the game.”

Thorburn’s clutch NCAA performance came right on the heels of an equally impressive effort in the MWC tourney. In the title game meeting with rival BYU, Thorburn put together the first triple-double in conference history, compiling 15 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in a commanding 84-60 victory.