Utah to face bigger threat in Colorado

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

Now that the Utes are back on the winning track, they will look to stay on the same path for the remainder of the season. Next up on the U women’s basketball team’s schedule is Colorado State, which is 8-16 overall and 3-8 in the Mountain West Conference. The Rams didn’t pose much of a threat to the Utes in their first meeting, as they were run out of their own gym by a score of 74-48.

However, CSU has improved during the second half of the conference season.

The Rams are fresh off a 30-point win over UNLV and almost pulled off a major upset over San Diego State a couple of weeks ago. Utah can expect a different team to meet it at the Huntsman Center than the one it saw in Fort Collins, Colo.

Colorado State has made strides during the second half of conference play on the offensive glass. The Rams are pulling down 14.2 offensive boards a game in MWC play, which is the best in the league.

Pacing the Utes will be an effort that has made them the best defensive rebounding team in the conference, grabbing 29.2 defensive boards a game. Head coach Elaine Elliott said that holding CSU to one possession on each offensive series is imperative for her team to succeed in the game.

“It’s a constant priority for us,” Elliott said. “We try and get our kids to understand that they have to win the rebounding battle every game. They have to first and foremost get after the boards and the loose balls. That’s not a new thing, it’s something we keep reminding our players.”

The one player Utah will have to keep off the glass is senior forward Amaka Uzomah. She averages 6.9 boards per game, and has grabbed a team-high 66 offensive rebounds on the season.

Another aspect Elliott wants to address in this game is getting her role players, particularly Katie King and Halie Sawyer, more involved in the offense.

When the Utes were at their best and blowing away opponents, Sawyer and King were key scoring options in the offense. During the past three games, Sawyer and King have averaged six points and four points, respectively.

“King needs to shoot more, she needs more attempts,” Elliott said. “Sawyer just needs to get comfortable and confident again. She’s getting the shots. We don’t need to try and create more shots for her. We just want her to get confident in the shots she’s getting.”

The Utes have only five more games remaining on their schedule, which means that preparation for the MWC tournament season is right around the corner. Statistically, Utah is roaring into the last leg of the regular season, but senior Morgan Warburton feels that in order to close the season out strong against the likes of CSU and the rest of the conference, Utah’s mental toughness will be put to the test.

“I think we can do a better job of being prepared mentally,” she said. “We need to come into games knowing that we are at the top of the league right now, and we can’t expect everyone in the league to fall over for us. We have to expect everyone to come after us.”

After tonight’s game, Utah will have a week off before traveling to UNLV on Feb. 25 and has just four more games until the MWC Tournament. Despite a 17-7 record overall, Utah received just one vote in the latest AP Poll and none in the Coaches Poll.

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Erik Daenitz

Kalee Whipple and the Utes will look to build upon their new winning streak tonight against Colorado State who knocked the Utes out of the MWC tournament last year.