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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Focal point

By Tom Quinn

Everyone knows that the BYU women’s basketball team lives and dies with Mallary Gillespie. Of course, knowing about Gillespie is easy. It’s making that knowledge work for you that can get a little sticky.

Going into last night’s showdown with the Cougars, the Utes were painfully aware of Gillespie’s ability to score anytime, from anywhere. But try as they might, they just couldn’t stop her from doing it.

Unlike the first time the two teams played, when Utah held Gillespie to just four points on 2-for-7 shooting, the junior shooting guard torched the Utes for a game-high 15 points, the majority of which came in the second half.

Although the Utes used essentially the same defensive strategy as they did in January — shadowing Gillespie with speedy guard Heidi Carlsen — they weren’t nearly as successful at stopping the Cougars’ No. 1 scoring threat.

Much to the dismay of Carlsen, who hounded Gillespie every time she stepped out on the court, Gillespie couldn’t be stopped. She repeatedly burned the Utes, with Carlsen’s hand in her face more often than not.

“I think that she’s a more aggressive player now than she was back in January,” said Utah head coach Elaine Elliott of Gillespie. “We’ve watched her on film over the last month. She’s not afraid to take her shots.”

Saying Gillespie isn’t afraid to shoot is like saying that Rick Majerus isn’t afraid to fill up his plate at the local Hometown Buffet. She isn’t exactly Kobe Bryant, but she is as close as the Cougars have had in recent memory.

Whenever Utah started to pull away, BYU turned to Gillespie to pull the Cougars back into contention. In the first half, for example, Utah was riding on a 20-7 run and on the verge of doing some serious damage until Gillespie — with Carlsen’s hand in her face — hit a shot that would have been a three-pointer by NBA standards.

“She’s been scoring a lot more against everyone over the last month or so,” Elliot said.

“I think it was her play, more than our defense, that made the difference in tonight’s game versus our game a month ago.”

On the bright side, the Utes’ combination of Jessica Perry and Joh-Teena Filipe did a much better job containing BYU’s Dani Wright than they did the last time the two teams met. Wright, who burned the Utes for 21 points in January, was held to 11 in 30 minutes of play.

Unfortunately for the Utah faithful, Gillespie more than made up for the Utes’ outstanding defense in the paint. Should the two teams meet again in next week’s MWC Tournament, the Utes may have to try a different strategy.

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