Cougars get leg up on Utes

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

An NCAA tournament berth fell out of reach for the U women’s basketball team when the Utes dropped their second-round game against BYU in the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev. on Friday. Utah will now set its sights on the women’s NIT.

The Utes’ poor shooting put them in an early hole in the 55-49 loss as BYU jumped out to a 13-point advantage by the 2:42 mark in the first half. Marie Warner brought some fire off the bench as she scored four consecutive points and Joh-Teena Filipe added a three-pointer that narrowed the gap to eight. By halftime, the score was 30-22.

Utah buried a pair of threes in the first five minutes of the half. With 15 minutes to go, the Utes tied the game at 34. The Cougars, who shot 50 percent from the field in the opening half, went cold. BYU scored just four points in the first 10 minutes of the second half.

The Utes took the opportunity to seize the lead. Heidi Carlsen made a jumper and Filipe drained her second three of the game, giving Utah a 39-34 edge. But the Utes scored just two points over the next six minutes. BYU recovered from its shooting slump just in time as the Cougars scored 17 points in the final seven minutes. The Utes scored just eight points over that same stretch and succumbed to a six-point loss to their rivals.

“They came back strong. They listen. They try,” U head coach Elaine Elliott said of her Utes. “They really have improved and have long, bright futures.”

The Cougars held Utah’s first-team all-MWC guard Morgan Warburton to nine points.

“It’s frustrating at times,” Warburton said of the smothering defense BYU held on her. “At the same time, I knew it was going to happen. I just tried my best to get my other teammates open?I had to work the ball around. I don’t mind doing that, either, because I have confidence in my team.”

Warburton had nine rebounds and three assists.

Three Utes scored in double-figures. Kalee Whipple led the Utes with 12 points. Filipe and Warner added 10 each. Whipple, who grabbed eight rebounds in the contest, led all freshmen in the league in both scoring and rebounding this season.

“I think (Whipple has) proven herself. This league knows that?she’s a rising star,” Elliott said.

As for the Utes’ postseason prospects, Elliott said she is excited about the opportunity to participate in the WNIT.

“We simply are extremely young?there’s no disappointment (in being left out of the NCAA tournament),” Elliott said. “(The WNIT is) a great match for this team–the youth of this team. We would love to have that opportunity.”

The Utes will return four starters next year. Of Utah’s eight core players, only Heidi Carlsen will not return. Ute point guard Leilani Mitchell redshirted this season and will join her team on the playing court next year.

“They won 18 games,” Elliott said when asked to assess her young team’s progress over the course of this season. “(They were) in the semifinals of the championships?(and were) playing for a conference championship the last week of the season?I give these kids an A.”