Perry steps up for Utes in big win

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

With a thrilling victory over No. 25 New Mexico at the traditionally hostile Pit on Sunday, the U women’s basketball team continues to prove that it is indeed a team–not just a group of players showcasing one rare talent while riding her coattails to success.

Whether it’s Morgan Warburton, Joh-Teena Filipe, Kalee Whipple, Heidi Carlsen, Brette Ulsaker, Marie Warner or (pause to inhale) Jessica Perry, one of these players is usually there to step up to the task at hand, providing a spark of energy or a game-changing play when needed.

The formula has worked well for the Utes, who began the season by uncharacteristically dropping four of their first five outings. But they have gone 8-2 in recent weeks, including a healthy 2-0 start in conference play.

This time it was Jessica Perry who came on strong in the final electrifying minutes of Sunday’s game. Perry has had an on-again, off-again season. The junior forward, who started for last year’s Elite Eight squad, has been inconsistent at times and has found herself coming off the bench on occasion and playing limited minutes.

But Utah coaches felt they needed her 6-foot-3 presence under the hoop in their arsenal when taking on the highly touted Lobos.

Prior to the game, Ute coaches gave Perry an assignment: Focus on defending and rebounding.

In other words, don’t add the pressure of feeling the need to score.

The advice had an ironic effect on Perry’s play. With decreased pressure to put points on the board, Perry went on to lead her team in scoring with 13, including a clutch three-pointer in the waning minutes that gave the Utes their first lead of a contest that would end dramatically with Utah shattering the Lobos’ 35-home game MWC winning streak and 16-home game overall streak.

Perry’s play gave the Utes that little extra something that they needed to pull off the one-point upset, which will almost surely drop New Mexico out of the rankings.

“She played very intensely and had good awareness,” said coach Elaine Elliott of Perry’s effort.

Utah, which last downed the Lobos at the Pit in 2001, remains undefeated in conference play, while New Mexico fell to 0-2.

Next up for the Utes is a road game against Colorado State on Thursday.

Lennie Mahler

Marie Warner drives to the hoop past Desiree Johnson in the second half of the Utes’ win over SDSU at the Huntsman Center on Thursday.