UNLV stuns the Utes 68-55

By By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

This is why they play the games.

Five Rebel players scored in double figures and the UNLV women’s basketball team used a 15-0 run late in the second half to catapult them to a major upset over Utah, 68-55. Morgan Warburton led the Utes with 21 points, but Kalee Whipple had an off-night, scoring only 10 points on 2-for-13 shooting. UNLV was led by Brittany Halberg, whose team-high 15 points all came in the second half.

After a back-and-forth contest in the first half that saw a total of 14 lead changes, Utah opened the second half with a 11-2 run, taking control with a 38-29 lead. UNLV responded quickly with its own run, however, going on a 7-1 run to pull the score within three, 39-36. The Utes were up for a majority of the second half, but a late-game scoring drought would end up being too costly for them.

Whipple hit two free throws with 7:40 left in the game to give the Utes a 48-43 lead, and Utah wouldn’t score again for six minutes. UNLV outscored Utah 25-7 from that point on, giving UNLV its fourth win in conference play, while Utah lost for just the second time since starting its MWC schedule.

The Running Rebels were aided by one of Utah’s worst shooting performances of the season. The Utes shot 32.7 percent from the floor, and only hit 24 percent of their 3-pointers against UNLV’s zone defense. Warburton and Whipple shot particularly poorly from the floor, combining for 9-for-31 shooting despite the tear the two have been on lately. It was the first time since Feb. 1 that Whipple has failed to hit the 20-point mark. The Utes were also uncharacteristically outrebounded from the floor, 38-32. Halie Sawyer and Katie King, Utah’s two best rebounders, only combined for 10 boards, five below what they usually average between them. Meanwhile, UNLV’s Jamie Smith had great success attacking the boards, ending up with a team-high 14.

Free throws also played a huge part in the upset. UNLV made a school record 23-for-24 from the charity stripe thanks in part to 23 Utah fouls. The Running Rebels were able to get a lot of the Utes players in foul trouble midway through the second half. Warburton picked up her fourth foul with 6:32 left, and Whipple was soon to follow with her fourth. Both players ended up fouling out in the game down the final stretch.

The surprising loss to UNLV will make the last three games critical in the race for the Mountain West Conference regular season championship. Utah is now just a game up on TCU in the loss column after the Horned Frogs beat New Mexico 41-38 to bring their conference record to 11-3. Utah is now at 11-2. The two will meet in the regular season finale on March 7th.

The Utes will try to shake off the surprising loss Saturday against arch-rival BYU.

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Erik Daenitz

The Utes lost to UNLV despite Morgan Warburton?s 21 points and 4 rebounds Wednesday night.