Women tie second-longest winning streak in San Diego

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

Updated 11:10 p.m on Feb. 16.

SAN DIEGO-The scrappy San Diego State women’s basketball team gave Utah all it could handle Saturday afternoon but the No. 19 Utes composed themselves and picked up their 16th-straight win. The feisty Aztecs caused Utah a lot of problems in the first half with their aggressive full-court press but a stronger second half helped the Utes secure a 63-51 win.

“This was not a pretty game” Utah head coach Elaine Elliot said. “(SDSU) didn’t play well either. It was just not a well-played game,” I was disturbed by our lack of intelligence in the game. I mean, the places that we took the ball, that we inbounded, were very disturbing to me.”

The Utes (21-3, 10-0 in MWC) coughed up the ball 13 times in the first half. They average just 14 turnovers a game. The miscues caused Utah to go into the half facing a 26-24 deficit. It was only the fifth time all year that the Utes have trailed at halftime. “That press really caused some problems for us,” said senior Leilani Mitchell, who had 15 points and eight assists. “We weren’t playing tough and we weren’t taking care of the ball.”

The Utes came into the game looking a little sluggish.

“I think (their press) just kind of caught us off guard,” said sophomore Kalee Whipple, who pulled down 11 rebounds and was one of three Utes to scored 15 points. Morgan Warburton also had 15 points.A different, more intense Utah team took the floor in the second half. “I feel like we can respond,” Elliott said. “I feel like we’re a good second-half team because I think, most of the time, we’re good enough to say, the reason we’re in this predicament is in our own heads. So, it gives us a chance to challenge (the team) to be better prepared in the second half.”

Elliott used her halftime pep talk to challenge the Utah players “to get their heads in the game.”

It appeared to work. In the second half, the Utes threw the ball away just five times.

Harnessing their newly discovered enthusiasm helped Utah start the half on a 15-3 run. The Aztecs (13-10, 4-7 in MWC) made just one field goal in the first 11:50 of the second half. All five Utah starters scored during that crucial stretch and the Aztecs were never able to recover. Turnovers aren’t the only thing that made the going ugly. The Utes shot just 38.5 percent from the field. Such inaccurate shooting is a rarity for the typically hot-shooting Utes, who lead the MWC in field goal percentage. Saturday’s game was only the second time all year that the Utes shot below 40 percent. The other time was at USC, one of Utah’s three losses of the year.

As for the Aztecs, it didn’t help their cause that Jene Morris, the MWC’s current leading scorer at 18.1 points, was held to 13 points.

The target on Utah’s back only gets bigger. With the win, the Utes tied their second longest winning streak in school history. The Utes also hold the second longest winning streak in the country. Only Chattanooga, which has won 17 consecutive contests, has a longer streak.

The Utes host rival BYU on a rare Tuesday night tilt at the Huntsman Center.

[email protected]