Women hope to redeem themselves in tournament

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The No. 5 seeded U women’s basketball team begins what the Utes hope will be a long tournament tonight when they face No. 4 TCU in round one of the MWC Championship in Las Vegas.

“We’ve won (against TCU) and we’ve played quite poorly (against TCU),” U head coach Elaine Elliott said of Utah’s two meetings with the Horned Frogs. Both teams won on their own home court.

The Utes, who had just rolled to a 5-0 start in the conference, beat TCU in Salt Lake City on Jan. 18. Four Utes scored in double figures, and Utah out-rebounded the Frogs by 10.

A month later, it was a different story. The Utes were in the midst of their downward spiral when they met TCU on Feb. 18. Utah, having lost four of its last six games, succumbed to its ugliest loss of the conference season. Twenty-six Utah turnovers led to a 24-point TCU blowout.

“It’s great to have (TCU) in Vegas (on a neutral court),” said Elliott, who said she believes TCU is “the most talented team, top to bottom, in the league.”

TCU enters the tournament with momentum. The Frogs are on a two-game winning streak and most recently beat top-seed BYU by 14 in their season finale.

The Utes, on the other hand, come into the tourney fresh off of two defeats, including a home loss to Wyoming that dropped the Utes from the No. 2 seed to No. 5.

Considering that five weeks ago the Utes were a perfect 7-0 in league play, it would have been pessimistic to foresee the Utes dropping all the way down to the No. 5 seed. But Utah lost six of its last nine games.

“It’s been difficult to take,” Elliott said of the slump. “The explanation isn’t an easy one.”

Elliott cited a lack of enthusiasm as one of the main causes of the recent funk. It was that same ho-hum attitude that led to Utah losing its season finale to Wyoming on Saturday.

In an effort to put that defeat — along with the last five weeks in general — behind them, the players met before practice Monday and discussed their intentions for the upcoming tournament.

“We just talked about how it’s now or never,” said U guard Morgan Warburton. “We can’t think about the (regular) season?I think teams should be scared of us.”

Warburton was named first-team all-MWC on Monday, marking the seventh straight year that at least one Ute has made the conference’s first-team. Warburton led Utah in scoring with 15.9 per game.

“We just got too comfortable,” Warburton said of what went wrong in the second half of the conference schedule. “(When we give our full effort), we can beat any team we want.”

“We came together,” U forward Kalee Whipple said of the pre-practice chat.

Whipple was the freshman leader in both scoring and rebounding in the conference and was named third-team all-MWC.

The Utes will try to slow down TCU’s Adrianne Ross, who was named co-player of the year. Ross led the league in scoring with 17.2 points and 2.97 steals. BYU’s Dani Wright shares the top honor with Ross.

Tip-off is set for 9:30 p.m. at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. The game can be seen on the mtn.

BYU (21-8, 12-4) enters the tournament as the top seed and will play the winner of a play-in game between Air Force and Colorado State.

If the Utes beat TCU, they will advance to the semifinals where they will clash with the winner of the BYU/Air Force or CSU game at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

Round one will be played today, and winners will advance to Friday’s semifinal round. The championship game will be played on Saturday at 2 p.m. and can be seen on Versus.

Kim Peterson

Brette Ulsaker drives against a Wyoming defender in Utah’s 62-53 loss in the Huntsman Center on Saturday. The Utes tip-off the MWC tournament against TCU in Las Vegas tonight.