Women hoopsters hope to make it three straight

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Two months ago, when her teammates began officially practicing for the basketball season, freshman Brette Ulsaker watched from the sideline.

Out with a hamstring injury, she spent the preseason healing and waiting for her chance.

“It was really hard sitting there and watching,” Ulsaker said, adding that, though being injured was a hardship, she learned just how competitive college basketball is by observing practice.

“I think that really helped when I was able to play again,” she said.

Ulsaker must have been paying close attention during those long weeks, because almost immediately after she was deemed healthy, she was in the starting lineup, and on Friday Ulsaker helped her team to a blowout win over Long Beach State.

“She’s only been practicing for literally 10 days,” said Utah coach Elaine Elliott, who is impressed with how well Ulsaker understands the system considering the short amount of time she has actually been able to practice.

Long Beach State jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, but nobody on the Utah bench flinched. The Utes didn’t score for the first three and a half minutes of the contest, but guard Heidi Carlsen buried two threes in the next 90 seconds and forward Joh-Teena Filipe added a layup that answered Long Beach State’s early run. That bucket energized the Utes and set them up for their own 20-2 run that put them in front 20-8.

A feisty Long Beach team narrowed the gap to five by scoring a flurry of 11 points in the final three minutes of the half, including a buzzer-beating lay-up that resulted from a 49er steal.

But it was all Utah in the second half The Utes overpowered Long Beach State, and it became clear that the 49ers were seriously outmatched in the talent department. Long Beach State’s offense crumbled under the pressure of a tough Utah defense that reduced the 49ers’ attack into a stand-around offense that more often than not resulted in a Utah steal, shot-clock expiration or some other forced mistake. The Utes held them to 19 second-half points while scoring 37 of their own.

In her third start and fourth college game, Ulsaker scored 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting and dished out seven assists in the 66-43 victory.

Three games ago, Elliott inserted Ulsaker into the lineup in place of 6-foot-3 junior Jessica Perry. The smaller three-guard scheme worked well for the Utes. With Ulsaker running the point, Morgan Warburton was free to play her more natural position on the wing.

“She makes everybody better,” said senior Heidi Carlsen of Ulsaker. “She’s getting the ball where she needs to get it and is creating shots for people.”

Filipe provided another solid game with 12 points and seven rebounds and freshman Halie Sawyer continued to pleasantly surprise, contributing six points and six rebounds off the bench.

Tonight the Utes will face USC, which has a record of 3-3. The Trojans are coming off a 76-57 victory over Colorado, in which senior guard Shay Murphy dropped 33 points on the Buffaloes. Three other USC players scored in double figures for the well-rounded Trojans.

Tip-off is at 7 p.m. at the Huntsman Center.

Lennie Mahler

Kalee Whipple takes an off-balance shot as she is trapped by Long Beach State defenders at the Huntsman Center on Friday. The Utes came out on top, defeating the 49ers 66-43.