Women hoopsters falter on the road

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

After being ravaged by the turnover bug throughout the first half, the U women’s basketball team could not recover from a 28-14 halftime deficit and dropped its season opener to Gonzaga on Friday night, 57-45.

Fourteen giveaways in the first half combined with dismal shooting–just 24 percent from the field–were enough to put the Utes in a hole from which they were never able to emerge.

“We know we have a lot of growing to do with this group,” U head coach Elaine Elliott said of her roster of mostly youngsters, who pulled within 10 points a few times in the second half but never any closer.

“The good news is we only had two turnovers in the second half and we outscored them in the second half,” Elliott said.

As for the first half, it wasn’t pretty. By halftime, the Utes had as many turnovers as they did points.

Utah got on the board first on a Marie Warner layup, but then wandered into a five-minute scoring drought that put them behind 7-2.

Sasha McKinnon hit her first of two threes to narrow the gap and Joh-Teena Filipe hit a jumper that briefly tied the game, but Gonzaga surged ahead, pushing the lead to 19-7 in the next six minutes.

From there, the Zags never glanced back.

After hitting just six field goals in the first half, the Utes improved in the second half, connecting on 12 of 34 attempts. Still, that was just 35 percent shooting–not good enough to make any significant runs down the stretch.

Of Utah’s 59 shots, only 16 came from post players, leaving the Utes’ wide array of guards to heave up the rest.

Starting guards Morgan Warburton and Heidi Carlsen were ice cold, as they combined for 5-of-25 shooting, and freshman backups Kalee Whipple and Hennesea Tokumura didn’t provide much of a spark from the bench, as they went 4-for-13.

An off night of shooting, trouble keeping possession of the ball and a team total of only six assists all contributed to the Utes’ loss, which dropped them to 0-1 on the season.

The Utes, who will take on Fresno State tonight in their home opener, hope to turn things around quickly against the Bulldogs, who posted a 24-8 record last season.

“(Fresno State has) got what you want–kids going into their senior year, ready to make their run,” Elliott said. “They’re going to pressure us.”

Fresno State was picked to finish second in the WAC behind five-time defending champion Louisiana Tech in a preseason media poll. The Bulldogs, who will play their season opener in Utah, have played in just one game so far this season–an exhibition match, which they won handily.

It’ll be another opportunity for the Utes–who graduated three starters last season, including two WNBA draftees–to take a few more steps toward meshing as a team and carving out a new post-Smith/Thorburn identity.

The game tips off at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.

Mike Terry

Morgan Warburton gets passed Savannah Ames in the Utes’ Nov.04, blowout of Albertson College in the Huntsman Center. The women lost their season opener to Gonzaga this weekend.