Battle of the MWC’s best

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The U women’s basketball team, which was picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West Conference in a preseason poll, has already vanquished one of the three teams predicted to best the Utes this season–New Mexico.

The other two teams expected to finish higher in the standings than Utah are TCU and BYU–both of which the Utes will face over the next two weeks at home.

Games against the conference’s toughest opponents will likely provide the Utes with a slightly more concrete answer to the question on the lips of everyone surrounding the program–How good is this team?

“If we play our game, we can beat anyone,” said a slightly biased Morgan Warburton, who was named MWC Player of the Week after raining a total of 40 points on Colorado State and UNLV last week.

The enigmatic Utes, who faltered early this season but have since improved their record to 11-6, will face the visiting No. 25 TCU Horned Frogs Thursday.

When the Utes beat New Mexico at The Pit on Jan. 7, it was the Lobos who were ranked No. 25–hanging on for dear life to the bottom rung of the national standings. But a Utah win knocked them out of the national picture.

The Utes will try to spoil another conference foe’s surge into the national spotlight when they face the scorching-hot Frogs, who have clobbered their last five opponents by at least 20 points a contest, and have climbed into the national No. 25 spot.

“They’re a really fast-paced team that is also disciplined,” Warburton said.

So fast paced, in fact, that the Frogs have scored at least 80 points six times this season.

Utah, on the other hand, has scored 80 points just once–an 80-69 victory over Northwestern–and will have to shoot well and be ready to run if they want to hang with the high-scoring Frogs.

Head coach Elaine Elliott has been drilling the team on transition defense this week, hoping to cut back on TCU’s fast break opportunities, Warburton said.

The Frogs have a dangerous trio of players who each average in double figures, led by Adrianne Ross who contributes 17.8. Ashley Davis adds another 16.5 and Hanna Biernacka is no slouch herself, chipping in another 13.5

But the Utes’ most dangerous weapons are getting more and more explosive as the year progresses–and at the top of that list is Warburton, who can both slash into the lane for two points off the glass as well as launch the long ball.

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