Utes overcome Jackrabbits in win

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The U women’s basketball team didn’t have too much trouble sending South Dakota State (5-2) home after a 67-59 defeat at the Huntsman Center on Wednesday night.

“We’re really just trying to learn how to win and tonight I think we really toughed that one out,” said Utah point guard Leilani Mitchell, who had 16 points, six assists and five rebounds.

The well-rounded Utes — four scored in double figures — held a 12-point edge with six minutes to go before South Dakota State came storming back.

“They played hard and we really had to match their intensity,” Mitchell said. “They’re great shooters.”

A jumper by the Jackrabbits’ Maria Boever narrowed Utah’s lead to four with three minutes to go.

Ute fans “in the know” may have been experiencing some déj vu.

The only two losses the Utes have suffered this season were games that Utah had firmly in hand before bad choices or free-throw shooting crippled the Utes’ late-game chances.

Not this time. The Utes — thanks to a couple of free throws by Mitchell, a 3-point shot by Morgan Warburton and a jumper by Katie King — were able to pull away from the Jackrabbits.

“I think we’re learning how to win those close games,” said Mitchell. “I think we kind of struggled with that against Stanford and Marist again on the road. We just have to make plays at the end of the game and know our game plan.”

The Jackrabbits came out strong. South Dakota State got on the board early and after 14 minutes of play, it had built up a 10-point advantage. But the Jackrabbits watched their lead melt away and then swell into a 13-point deficit.

During the Utes’ big run, they got help from many sources. Senior center Jessica Perry pulled down eight rebounds while adding six points. King had 12 points.

Despite shooting a combined 2-of-13 from beyond the arc, Warburton and Kalee Whipple also combined for some positive stats. Together, Utah’s double threat on the wings chipped in 30 points, 20 rebounds, seven assists and three steals.

“The three-point (shot) was definitely not there,” Whipple said. “It just wasn’t a good shooting night.

The shots weren’t dropping, but in the end it didn’t matter. The Utes improved to 4-2 and now head into a three-game road swing, where they’ll face Fresno State, USC and Minnesota.

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Tyler Cobb

Leilani Mitchell drives past Ashlea Muckenhirn of South Dakota State.