U women squeak out of first round with a win

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

LAS VEGAS — In true “March Madness” fashion, the U women’s basketball team left fans with their hearts in their throats until the final seconds of the Utes’ thrilling one-point win over TCU Wednesday night in the MWC Championship in Las Vegas, Nev.

Utah held a one-point lead over the Horned Frogs with 17 seconds to go, but TCU’s Ashley Davis drove to the hoop and scored the go-ahead layup with 11 ticks left on the clock. The fast-breaking Utes immediately pushed the ball upcourt and Morgan Warburton found Kalee Whipple near the basket. The freshman floated in the game-winner with 1.4 seconds to go. TCU missed a desperation 75-footer and Utah escaped with the win.

The No. 5 seeded Utes ousted No. 4 TCU from the tournament and advanced to the semifinals, where they will meet up with none other than No. 1 BYU. The two teams will face off today for a chance to play in the championship game for an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.

First-team all-MWC guard Warburton scored 14 first-half points Wednesday night and third-teamer Whipple added another 11 as the Utes jumped out to an early 14-point lead. Warburton and Whipple finished the contest with 23 and 18 points, respectively.

“I wanted it so bad,” said Warburton, who was a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the three-point arc in the first half. The sophomore carried the team on her shoulders throughout the opening 20 minutes as she scored in a variety of ways, including connecting on outside shots and driving down the lane for acrobatic layups. The Utes took a 10-point advantage into the break.

But co-Player of the Year Adrianne Ross got hot in the second half. The speedy guard scored 18 of her 26 points in the final 20 minutes, but it wasn’t enough for the Horned Frogs.

“We just really wanted to feel like this after the game, and I’m not referring to just winning a game,” said U head coach Elaine Elliott. “I’m referring to just knowing that we gave a great effort.”

Elliott hasn’t always been pleased with her team’s effort this season and criticized its lack of passion after the Utes dropped their regular-season finale against Wyoming. But the Utes appear to have shown up in Las Vegas with their game faces on.

As for meeting up with rival BYU for the third time this season, Elliott said her team is “in a state of readiness.”

The rivalry “heightens to the next level in the postseason,” Elliott said. “Everyone knows they have the best post game (in the MWC).”

The Utes tried to contain Ross in their tourney opener and will try to stifle the output of the other co-Player of the Year, Dani Wright, today. The 6-foot-3 center injured her ankle just six minutes into BYU’s first-round match against Air Force. Wright never returned as the Cougars easily blew out the Falcons. She will most likely be back in the lineup today.

After Warburton watched Whipple’s game-winning layup fall through the hoop, she said her first thought was of BYU. The Utes split two games with the Cougars this season with each team winning on its home court.

Elliott told the Utes, “It’s not where we’ve been, but where we’re going,”

Whipple said winning the MWC tourney will go a very long way in erasing the low points Utah experienced in the second half of the season.

Tip-off is tonight at 3:30 p.m. The game can be seen on the mtn.

Kim Peterson

The Ute bench and U fans in the stands jump off their seats as Kalee Whipple scores a game-winning jumpshot with 1.7 seconds left in the Utes’ first round against TCU in the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas. The final score was 68-67.