Down to earth

What a difference a few days make.

Just last week, the U women’s basketball team was one of the hottest clubs in the West. The Utes were undefeated in conference play and had long since overcome the inconsistent play that plagued the first few games of the post-Smith-and-Thorburn era.

But after answering doubters by winning their first seven league games, the doubts are back thanks to the Utes’ sloppy five-point loss to the San Diego Aztecs this weekend–Utah’s second loss in a row. In less than a week’s time, the team has gone from the driver’s seat to its most significant slump since late November.

Ball security has been a recurring issue throughout the year, but never was that more evident than Saturday afternoon’s sloppy showing. The Utes (14-8, 7-2 MWC) turned the ball over 22 times as they dropped a 71-66 decision to the Aztecs (10-10, 3-6 MWC) in San Diego. Typically, the Ute offense has more than enough to make up for such mistakes, but Saturday afternoon wasn’t the offense’s night, particularly the backcourt.

Leading scorer Morgan Warburton and fellow starting guard Heidi Carlsen combined to shoot just 7-for-26 from the field, and the team connected on just 37.5 percent of its attempts. And though Utah lost by just five, by the game’s waning moments it was all but over. The Aztecs’ lead swelled to as many as 15 points as they took firm control midway through the second half.

Aztec guard Quenese Davis carried the bulk of the offensive load and did a lot of it from the charity stripe. The Utes sent Davis to the line 16 times, and she connected on 11, finishing with a game-high 21 points, while Jennifer Layton added 15.

Warburton led all Utes with 19 but struggled from the field and committed five turnovers on her own. Kalee Whipple was one of the bright spots for Utah, scoring 14 points and pulling down 11 boards, including seven on the offensive end.

Now it’s back to the drawing board for the Utes, who host New Mexico Thursday night in hopes of snapping this sudden two-game skid. In their two losses, the Utes’ shooting has suddenly gone downhill, connecting on just 44-of-118 field goals.

Now sitting in second place in the conference standings (a half-game behind 7-1 BYU), the Utes have three straight home games coming up soon. Following the meeting with the Lobos, the team will face off against Colorado State and UNLV before heading back out on the road.

Lisa Teran

Joh-Teena Filipe drives past Dani Wright in Utah’s Jan. 27 victory over BYU. The Utes lost 71-66 to San Diego on Friday.