Women’s Hoops: Utes put ’70s record on the line

By By Natalie Dicou

By Natalie Dicou

The U women’s basketball team has a perfect 11-0 record in MWC play, but that doesn’t mean the Utes have easily breezed past everyone they’ve played.

No. 18 Utah (22-3, 11-0) has dealt its share of blowouts this season, but New Mexico (13-11, 5-6 in MWC) gave the Utes a run for their money like no other conference team has been able to.

On Saturday, Utah and New Mexico clash once again. This time, though, the game is in the hostile environment of The Pit, where fans turn out for women’s hoops games in larger numbers than anywhere else in the league.

The last time Utah met up with the Lobos, the Utes narrowly escaped with a win after giving head coach Elaine Elliott and Huntsman Center fans a scare. Utah trailed by 14 with 7:53 remaining, but was able to confuse the Lobos with a full-court press. The pressure, along with New Mexico shooting woes, allowed the Utes to pull back within reach. Utah scored 22 of the final 27 points. The Utes, who were still campaigning for a place in the Top 25 at the time, pulled out a three-point victory.

Needless to say, it was a long ride back to Albuquerque, N.M., for the Lobos.

“It’s going to be exciting because I think our whole team likes to play in front of a big crowd,” senior point guard Leilani Mitchell said. “I remember last year, we had to work on our hand signals because you can’t hear very well there.”

Mitchell and the Utes would like to avoid having to rely on late-game heroics for the win.

“We didn’t do very well defensively,” Mitchell said. “We didn’t defend the way we were supposed to on a couple of different plays, so we need to be more intense on defense and make sure we jump to the ball.”

The Utes will have to slow down three-time all-MWC selection Dionne Marsh. Last time the two teams met, they held her to nine points.

Utah goes into the game fresh off a 37-point win over in-state rival BYU. The Utes beat the Cougars by 68 points this season in the first meeting between the two rivals.

“I think we were just ready to play both times,” Mitchell said. “They gave us a good game in the first half. The second half, we really picked it up and just tried to take it to them a little more. It kind of led to a big blowout in the second half.”

The Utes will try to extend their winning streak, which dates back to Dec. 3. If they are able to snag their 18th consecutive win, the Utes will break a school record set back in 1977.

Since the close call with New Mexico, the Utes have tinkered with their strategy.

“They kind of trapped us out of our on-ball screens,” Mitchell said. “But we’ve worked on some screens since then to counter that, so hopefully that’ll work.”

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Tony Pizza

In the last meeting against the New Mexico Lobos, Morgan Warburton scored a 3-point shot to win the game. Utah will put their 11-0 conference record on the line against New Mexico this Saturday.