Ute women ground Air Force

By By Natalie Dicou and By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The U women’s basketball team has never come out on the losing end in any of its 24 matches against the Air Force Academy-ever since the two teams first met in 1998.

With so much on the line-a possible Mountain West Conference regular season title and seeding in the MWC tournament-the Utes (17-10, 10-4) weren’t about to let the Falcons (5-20, 1-13) sneak away with their first win of the series, and soared over Air Force 60-52.

After leading the Falcons by 14 with two-and-a-half minutes left in the opening half, the Utes let the Falcons pull within five (44-39) midway through the second.

But the Utes quickly stifled Air Force’s run when Kalee Whipple and Joh-Teena Filipe hit back-to-back three-pointers, swinging the momentum back in Utah’s favor.

“I was thinking, please go in,” Filipe said of her thought process as she launched her attempt from beyond the arc. Filipe was on target, and the shot gave the Utes an 11-point advantage-a deficit that was too much for Air Force to overcome, as the Falcons eventually succumbed to Utah by eight.

The Utes were led by two sophomores and a freshman that all scored in double-figures. Sophomores Filipe and Morgan Warburton scored 16 and 14 points, respectively. Freshman Whipple added 13 points and a career-high 12 rebounds.

“It’s huge,” Whipple said of her team’s youth and what it means for the seasons that lie ahead. “Obviously our focus is on this year, but knowing that we have these young players that can really help our team?gives us a lot of hope.”

The word, “hope,” came up more than once after the Air Force game.

“We have so much time to work together and get better,” Filipe said. “It gives us hope for the next years to come.”

With the recent losses suffered by teams ahead of Utah in the MWC (TCU fell to Wyoming and UNLV upset conference-leader BYU), Utah is right back in the hunt for the championship.

BYU leads the league at 10-3, while Utah, New Mexico (9-4) and TCU (9-5) are battling it out for second place.

“Hearing today that TCU lost made everyone so pumped,” Filipe said. “It’s great to know that we have an opportunity to take first.”

The Utes have the weekend off before playing their crucial game against BYU next Wednesday in Provo. They will work in practice this week on clamping down on BYU’s inside and outside offense, according to Filipe.

“Their posts are dominating and big,” she said.

The game is slated for Wednesday at 8 p.m. in Provo’s Marriott Center.