Halfway perfect

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Good things come to Utah women’s basketball fans who wait. If you’re willing to sit through short-on-passion, error-prone first halves, you’ll most likely be rewarded with second halves that are more spirited and better executed.

On Thursday night, the Utes (16-9, 9-3 MWC) overcame a sloppy start to defeat the visiting UNLV Rebels (10-14, 4-8 MWC) at the Huntsman Center, 70-55.

“It was ugly, but it doesn’t matter because we came out with a win,” said U sophomore Morgan Warburton, who picked up her first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. “Some games we come out and we’re pumpin’ and we’re ready to go and other games we’re not.”

The Utes threw the ball away 11 times in the first half but a ghastly shooting performance by UNLV prevented the Rebels from exploiting Utah’s mistakes.

The Rebels shot just 23 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes including 1-of-12 from beyond the three-point arc. The Utes went into the break with a 26-17 advantage.

In the second half, Utah gradually pulled away, building the lead up to 21. The Rebels crept back within eight with five minutes to go but Warburton scored nine points in the final five minutes — including four clutch free-throws– leading the team to a 15-point win.

“We just don’t have that consistency of play we’re aiming for that I think will come with, unfortunately, more time,” U head coach Elaine Elliott said of her team’s lopsided effort. “These players are pretty young and still have a lot of growing to do.”

The Utes managed to keep their turnover total low on Saturday against Colorado State as they snapped a three-game losing streak. In that contest, the Utes tallied just 12 giveaways. But that number jumped up to 19 last night against UNLV.

“Sometimes we take care of the ball and we make some good decisions and sometimes we really struggle,” Elliott said.

Kalee Whipple added her fourth career double-double to her resume with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

“We have some really, really big games coming up,” Whipple said. “It’s very important to get our confidence up to go on the road.”

The road trip — three straight games starting with TCU on Sunday — will make or break Utah’s regular season title hopes. On Feb. 22, the Utes will rematch with the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and then on Feb. 28, the Utes will clash with BYU in Provo in a game that could decide the conference champion.