Women’s Hoops: Utes stay perfect against in-state foe (12/15)

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The U women’s basketball team made it look easy Saturday afternoon when it dispensed of in-state rival Utah State in brutal fashion.

The Utes (7-3) never trailed in the home game and pulled away to a 32-point victory. The Aggies (2-6) hung around in the first half, but when the final buzzer sounded, the Utes were left with a 70-38 win.

“We started a little slowly defensively,” head coach Elaine Elliott said. “I wasn’t happy about that, but we made very good adjustments and the kids did a nice job the last three quarters of the game.”

Although the final score suggests the game was an outright shellacking, Utah State managed to play a decent first half against the Utes.

After going up by 10 points after nine minutes of play, Utah struggled for a brief period, allowing Utah State to fight its way back to a three-point deficit midway through the first quarter.

“The beginning was kind of rough for us,” Elliot said. “I don’t know if we were physically and mentally ready but toward the end of the first half and in the second half we pulled it together and played well.”

Four Utes scored in double figures, with shooting guard Morgan Warburton leading all scorers with 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Point guard Leilani Mitchell and small forward Kalee Whipple chipped in 12 points apiece. Mitchell also dished out seven assists. Power forward Katie King added 10 points and center Jessica Perry helped out on the boards with nine rebounds. The Utes shot 51 percent from the field.

“We did a nice job of taking outside shots when we had them and hitting them,” Elliott said. “We have good shooters, so obviously when we can do that early, it puts a lot of pressure on teams.”

Whipple scored all 12 of her points from 3-point range, nailing 4-of-8 from beyond the arc.

“Kalee (Whipple) shot the ball well,” Elliott said. “She has been struggling for a couple of weeks and needed to get out of her head about it so today I thought was a nice breakthrough for her to get some threes.”

The Utes took a 14-point lead into the break and had no mercy on the Aggies in the second half.

It was the first time the Utes have played on their home court since Nov. 28.

“We were talking about it at practice,” Whipple said. “It’s been like three weeks since we’ve played here and it’s really, really nice to be back home and have our crowd, our band, everything. It’s really fun.”

Utah’s inside game was also too much for the Aggies to handle. The Utes outscored the Aggies 40-6 in the paint and improved their all-time record against their neighbors to the north to 27-0.

Surprisingly, the two teams had not met since 1987 — the same year Warburton was born. The lengthy hiatus was largely because the Aggies’ program was discontinued in 1987 and only got back on the hardwood five years ago.

The Utes are back in action at home on Dec. 19 against St. Mary’s College at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

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