Last line of defense

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

As good as Morgan Warburton was in Saturday’s home win over BYU-her 25 points were both a game and career high-the real reason for the Utes’ dominance over the Cougars was the team’s outstanding team defense.

Coming into Saturday’s game, BYU was the top shooting team in the Mountain West Conference. The Cougars’ combination of tough post play and sharp perimeter shooting made their offense particularly difficult to defend.

At the hands of the Utes, however, BYU’s outside shooters couldn’t buy a bucket. Mallary Gillespie, the Cougars’ No. 1 threat from beyond the arc, converted on just two of her nine field goal attempts, a paltry 22 percent.

“Our coaches prepared us for this game all week long,” U senior guard Heidi Carlsen said. “They came up with a great game plan for us, and I think we did a pretty good job of executing it.”

U head coach Elaine Elliott may have devised the game plan, but it wouldn’t have worked without Carlsen and junior forward Marie Warner, both of whom followed Gillespie more closely than her own shadow. BYU’s star shooter was visibly frustrated for most of the game before fouling out late in the second half.

“Gillespie didn’t have a good night tonight,” Elliott said. “Marie’s effort and Heidi’s effort definitely helped (contain Gillespie).”? The rest of BYU’s perimeter players fared no better against Utah’s dogged defense. None of them made more than two shots, and the Cougars’ four-player rotation combined to make an anemic 7-of-32 from the field.

“We worked hard getting ready for this game,” Carlsen said. “After the slow start that we had, executing well in a game like this is a huge boost for our confidence.”

The lone player that continually frustrated the Utes’ defensive efforts was Dani Wright. The Cougars’ gargantuan center single-handedly kept BYU in contention during Utah’s second-half scoring barrage, despite being double- and triple-teamed virtually every time she touched the ball.

“We made some mistakes around her, but she’s the kind of player that can cause the other team to make mistakes,” said Elliot of Wright, who scored a team-high 21 points for BYU. “We just wanted her to earn her points, and she did.”

In addition to making Wright earn everything that she got, the Utes made sure that none of her teammates got any freebies either. The Cougars struggled to find any rhythm against Utah, at times looking utterly lost.?They turned the ball over 20 times, a statistic that ultimately turned into 14 points for the Utes.

“Tonight we were out-hustled, out-executed and outplayed,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “But I think we’ll learn from it.”

Lennie Mahler

Joh-Teena Filipe battles BYU center Dani Wright under the hoop in Saturday’s Utah victory in the Huntsman Center.