Utes hope to down second-straight Pac-10 team

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

They’re young, they’re energetic and they’re winning.

The U women’s basketball team is on a roll. The Utes, who are led in scoring by two sophomores and a freshman, have won three straight games against two in-state foes and, most recently, edged out USC at home.

On Saturday, a confident Utah team will face Arizona.

“We’ve gotta believe we can win,” said sophomore guard Morgan Warburton, who is averaging 14.9 points a game. “When we do that, we’re going to win. We have that attitude.”

The Utes, who started the year off with a pair of losses, have returned to what they know best: piling up the wins.

With freshman starters Kalee Whipple and Brette Ulsaker asserting themselves as team leaders, the Utes are making it clear that they have an array of useful weapons.

Warburton’s strong all-around play is being supplemented by Joh-Teena Filipe’s steady scoring. Both players will need to play well this weekend if the Utes want to knock off their second-straight Pac-10 opponent.

The Wildcats are coming off a disastrous season in which they finished the year 8-22.

But last year, the Wildcats had more than basketball on their minds. Just prior to the season, Arizona’s star player, Shawntinice Polk, who was expected to be a first-round pick in the WNBA draft upon graduation, died suddenly of a pulmonary blood clot.

After the tragedy struck, the Wildcats weren’t able to string two wins together during the entire 2005-2006 season.

But the Wildcats appear to have rebounded. Their record might not be incredibly impressive at 5-4, but they’ve played a killer schedule. All four losses have come against ranked opponents, including No. 1 Maryland and No. 23 New Mexico, which is an MWC foe that the Utes will meet up with twice later in the season.

The Wildcats’ biggest threat is Joy Hollingsworth, who is leading the team with 16 points, six rebounds and three steals per game.

U head coach Elaine Elliott compared Hollingsworth’s style of play to that of USC guard Shay Murphy. The Utes held the dangerous guard to three-of-13 shooting on Monday.

“Hollingsworth can do it all,” Elliott said. “(Arizona is) going to be quite a challenge.”

The Utes will want to be careful not to back down if they get a lead. The Wildcats have made several explosive runs throughout the young season. They scored 16 straight points against WAC champion Louisiana Tech, went on a 30-5 tear against UTEP and outscored No. 1 Maryland 20-4 over the final eight minutes of a contest against the national champs, where they ended up losing by 14.

Interestingly, the Wildcats feature two sets of identical twins: Suzy and Beatrice Bofia and Rhaya and Rheya Neabors. The Bofia sisters, who are Cameroon imports, stand 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7, respectively. Utah won’t have to battle both at once, though, because Beatrice Bofia suffered a dreaded ACL-tear in the pre-game warm-up of an early exhibition game.

The game tips off on Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.

Christopher Peddecord

Lydia Whitehead drives to the basket in the Utes’ win over USC on Monday.