Repeat matchups put Utes on edge

By By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

Round two of Mountain West Conference play got off to a tougher start than expected.

Although the Utes were still able to come away with a victory over Wyoming, it took a little longer than anticipated. They looked as if they were low on energy for most of the game.

The Utes were able to get away with that against Wyoming, but if they want to be successful Wednesday night against the 16-5 San Diego State Aztecs, they’ll need to be on their A game.

The second cycle of games in the MWC is always said to be tougher. Because each team has played each other once already, everyone is more familiar with the competition.

“It’s a whole new ball game now,” said head coach Elaine Elliott. “I think the advantage goes to the team that lost the first time around. They are now a month better and are hungry to get another chance. We have to remember that we have to be better. We have to stay just as hungry and tell teams “not this time either.’ It’s a real mental game.”

Utah’s first game against SDSU was a defensive struggle. The Utes were able to use a strong first half to propel themselves to a 58-52 victory, but it wasn’t easy.

And if what Elliott said regarding repeat matchups holds true, the Utes will find themselves in another dogfight tonight.

“The second time around is absolutely tougher,” Elliot said. “There are just a lot of things in play. I’m proud of this team for the (Wyoming) game. That was a struggle in a lot of ways. A lot of things didn’t go our way, but we got the “W.'”

Utah will be playing on the road against a team that hasn’t lost on its home court all year. SDSU sits at second place in the MWC with a 7-2 record. Forward Paris Johnson is a post-playing force and has been having as good a season as any player in the conference, averaging 15.1 points and 8.7 boards a game.

But what worries Elliott about tonight’s contest is the Aztecs’ high-pressure defense. SDSU averages 11 steals a game, and has 56 more steals than anyone else in the conference.

“San Diego State is all about turnovers,” Elliott said. “They have to get their speed into their offense and that happens when they create turnovers at the defensive end. You have to be ready from the start to be strong with the basketball.”

Morgan Warburton agreed that taking care of the ball will be Utah’s main concern today.

“We need to handle the pressure,” she said. “That’s one of the biggest things when playing SDSU, just being comfortable with the ball. We have to be strong with it.”

Utah might have some problems with SDSU’s pressure defense. The Utes are currently No. 8 in turnover margin in the MWC, at minus-3.68 per game. Utah also turned the ball over 22 times the first time the two met. The Utes were able to counter their turnover woes with terrific production on the glass, however8212;forwards Halie Sawyer and Katie King outrebounded the entire Aztec team, 28-24.

[email protected]