Team sails despite losses

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

It hasn’t necessarily been smooth sailing for the women’s basketball team this season. It started out as good as anyone could have hoped. Utah was projected to win the Mountain West, and it beat its first opponent, Jackson State, with relative ease.

But then the challenging games came8212;South Dakota State, Louisville, Virginia and Gonzaga. Each team bested the Utes, and things began to look a little bleak. There was no shame in losing to any of these opponents. All of the teams involved with Utah’s four-game losing streak were either ranked in the top 25 or were receiving votes. But loss after loss can sometimes demoralize a team. An “A” team can almost get in the mindset of expecting things to go wrong toward the end of games.

But will it happen to this team, this talented group of players? There is reason to believe otherwise.

The second half of the Marquette game.

Yes, the season is still early, and lots can go on between now and March, but the Utes showed more than just that they are capable of making large runs or winning on the road. Despite riding a mentally draining four-game losing streak, being on the road and going into halftime down 15, Utah was able to pull it together and come out on top against Marquette 79-76.

“(The Marquette outcome) was really good,” said head coach Elaine Elliot. “We played a particularly unenthusiastic first half and there was a decision to be made…the team put on a much better performance in the second half.”

“It showed that we just aren’t going to give up when we’re down big,” said junior forward Kalee Whipple. “We were sticking with really good teams, but just weren’t able to finish. Against Marquette, we finally got over that hump.”

This can be the reason why some programs opt to play light schedules at the beginning of the season. Loading up on the wins can get players’ confidence up. Although Utah’s record, now at 2-4, doesn’t look good on the surface, it actually isn’t bad. The Utes are in a position where they know they are capable of hanging in there with the best of them, and after the Marquette game they know they can win those tough games. The results so far might not be as pretty as TCU (6-1), New Mexico (6-1), or UNLV (4-2), but Utah knows from the tests it has endured that it is capable of conquering these teams.

When asked about her team’s mental state, Elliot didn’t show any concern.

“I think they’ve handled everything really well,” she said. “I think there’s a difference when you’re losing against bad teams, and then you feel you’re a bad team. We were losing, competitively, against good teams. So we still feel as if we are a good team, we haven’t lost that.”

In three months, when all the teams in the country are making runs at the NCAA tournament, the Utes expect to be in good shape. The Marquette game might have been that corner the team turned to get them on the winning road again.

Utah resumes play Tuesday against Westminster College in the Huntsman Center.

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