Thrice bitten

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Whether the ball clanked off the rim, clattered around the iron before bouncing astray or swirled around and popped out-the New Mexico Lobos had serious trouble getting the ball through the hoop in the first half. The game had all the makings of a blowout of the visiting Lobos, but ended in a Utah loss that shocked fans at the Huntsman Center Thursday night.

After 13 minutes of play, the Utes were up 22-6. The Lobos shot just 18 percent from the field in the first half on 5-of-27 from the field. But Utah committed 12 first-half turnovers and couldn’t pull down a single offensive rebound through the first 20 minutes. The Utes headed into the break up 28-17, leaving the door cracked just a tad too wide.

The Lobos methodically inched their way back throughout the second half. Instead of scoring in quick spurts, the Lobos chipped away at the deficit. One point here, two points there. With 4:01 to go, the Lobos seized the lead for the first time of the night, and went on to win 73-65.

“Just because we had a lead, the game wasn’t going to go away,” said Marie Warner, who led all Utes with 23 points and three assists. “They were going to play hard the whole game and that’s what we needed to do as well, and we didn’t get that done in the second half.”

New Mexico’s Katie Montgomery carried the Lobos on her back as she scored 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting, and she knocked down four from beyond the three-point arc. It also didn’t hurt that the best free-throw shooter in the nation, Julie Briody was on target tonight as well, hitting all 12 of her attempts from the stripe.

“We got a little comfortable,” Warner said. “We weren’t playing with a lot of confidence?we just needed to play a little tougher.”

The game marked the Utes’ third straight conference loss. After starting the Mountain West Conference schedule a perfect 7-0, the Utes have fallen on hard times and will have to rally if they want even a sniff at the MWC title. They’ll also need some luck-teams ahead of them will have to lose to give Utah a chance.

Morgan Warburton, a key component of Utah’s offense, had a so-so night. She scored 17 points but shot just 5-of-15 from the field.

“We lost communication,” U head coach Elaine Elliott said. “We’re not disciplined defensively and it’s catching up to us.”

But that wasn’t the Utes’ only problem Thursday night.

“You are not going to beat anybody good in this league if you have low turnovers in one half or you only defend in one half or you only shoot well half the time,” Elliott said, speaking of the polarity of the two halves.

Many of the Utes’ problems stem back to their youth. “There are lessons that this team has not yet learned and we don’t have anything to learn (them) from,” Elliott said.

The Utes will try to avoid a four-game slide on Saturday at the Huntsman Center where they will face Colorado State at 3 p.m.

Lisa Teran

Marie Warner puts two of her career-high 23 points through the net Thursday night against New Mexico. Despite Warner’s performance and the Utes taking 28-17 lead at the half, the Utes fell behind late in the game to lose 73-65.