Women’s Hoops Notebook: U women continue to win, move up rankings

By Natalie Dicou

Moving on up

Little by little, the U women’s basketball team is climbing the national rankings. In their fifth week in the Top 25, the Utes checked in at No. 15. Utah made its Top-25 debut at No. 20 on Feb. 4. Since then, the upward movement has been slower. Over the past four weeks, the Utes have moved from No. 19 to No. 18 to No. 16 to where they now stand.

Dancing with the champs

Utah head coach Elaine Elliott showed her more playful side after the 14-point win over Wyoming on Sunday, which guaranteed the Utes an outright conference championship. After the game, Elliott spoke into a microphone about how difficult it is to win a conference championship, congratulated Wyoming on a solid season and then the 25-year veteran invited Ute forward Kalee Whipple to dance with her.

“Thankfully, because of the good effort tonight (the players get their chance to celebrate),” Elliott told a boisterous Huntsman Center crowd. “We’re going to take down the net, play some music and dance a little bit. Right, Whippy?”

Elliott then asked that music be played to celebrate the championship, and the famous victors’ tune “We are the Champions” was played through the loudspeakers as Ute players and coaches took turns cutting down the net.

The streak continues

With a team-record 20-game winning streak under their belt, the Utes are beginning to sound like seasoned pros as they continue to hone and perfect the famed “We’re just taking it one game at a time” speech. The former record of 18 consecutive wins set in 1977 was shattered last week against TCU when the Utes hit that magical 19th-straight-win mark.

The Utes have had to pull out a few last-minute finishes to keep the streak alive.

“We’ve been down. We’ve been dead in the water and managed to just keep playing and get wins,” Elliott said. “There’s not a lot of nervousness or tightness, just pretty consistent passion.”

The dead-in-the-water incident was the recent New Mexico game in which the Utes came back from 12 down with four minutes to go to win the game.

Comparisons to 2006 team

With each win, this year’s Utes are being compared more and more to the 2006 Utes who made an unprecedented NCAA tournament run two years ago. The team reached the Elite Eight before losing in overtime to eventual champion Maryland. Few people remember that the 2006 Utes didn’t win the regular-season MWC crown.

“That team didn’t even win the league,” Elliott said. “We lost a couple home games during league. We lost (on) really last-second, put-back kind of things, heartbreaking experiences. That team flat out just handled it and went forward, and this team has managed to handle the pressures of winning, which is every bit (as) difficult.”

Junior guard Morgan Warburton said she believes her team’s work ethic mirrors that of the 2006 team.

“This is a lot like my freshman year,” Warburton said. “It’s really fun to be a part of something (where) everybody is coming and is committed everyday. I feel that with this team, and we’re going to go pretty far.”

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Anna Kartashova

In addition to earning a regular season conference championship, the Utes also earned a No. 15 ranking with their big win over then No. 24 Wyoming.