Limiting turnovers critical against BYU

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

The Utes experienced an unexpected loss Feb. 25 against UNLV.

The UNLV women’s basketball team entered Wednesday’s game with a 3-10 record in conference. The Rebels were also the worst defensive team statistically in the Mountain West Conference. But UNLV was able to upset the Utes 68-55, thanks in large part to its defense holding Utah below 33 percent shooting from the floor.

The Utes will have to try to rebound against the team down south Saturday in the Huntsman Center. Utah was able to pull away against BYU in their first meeting, 63-55, thanks to strong performances from Katie King and Morgan Warburton. The Utes’ 17 turnovers nearly cost them the game, however.

Minimizing turnovers will be key in Saturday’s game. The Cougars thrive on getting steals, averaging nine a game. The only team that averages more steals per game in the conference is San Diego State, which beat Utah two weeks ago.

Head coach Elaine Elliott said that this late in the season, she isn’t quite sure what else she can do to help her team’s turnover problems, and she just hopes the Utes’ turnover problem doesn’t escalate over time.

“There’s nothing I can do,” Elliott said. “It’s one of those areas of a game where you can sort of make it worse. I’m not sure how much you can do to make it better. You just try and put them in situations where they aren’t trying to do too much. It’s when they are trying to do too much that they make those turnovers.”

Warburton also feels that controlling turnovers will go a long way in determining the team’s success down the final stretch.

“Coach still acknowledges when we don’t take care of the ball very well,” she said. “I think all of us realize times when we’re struggling. But overall, I think we’ve increased our capabilities with taking care of the ball.”

Although turnovers might be the one statistic to look out for during the BYU game, the team’s mental state figures to be just as important as any stat. As always with rivalry games, emotions tend to run high. Elliott said her team will be mentally prepared for this game as usual.

“The emotions for us for the BYU game have always been where they needed to be,” she said. “They’re pleasantly intense, but they have never been out of line or concerning to performance.”

Utah can expect BYU to come into the Huntsman Center full of energy. BYU hasn’t won a game in the rivalry since 2007, and the Cougars need to close out strong if they want to be in the discussion for any type of postseason bid.

“The second game in a series is always tough, especially with BYU,” Warburton said. “They are going to be coming after us.”

BYU sophomore guard Mindy Nielson figures to be a particularly tough matchup for the Utes on both the offensive and defensive end. Nielson is the only Cougar averaging in double figures, with 10.8 points per game. She also leads BYU in steals on the season with 49. She had three steals in her first game against Utah.

Each game from here on out will be crucial in the Utes’ run for their second straight conference title. With only a half-game lead over TCU, there isn’t much room for error. Protecting home court will also be vital, because Utah will face the Horned Frogs in Fort Worth, Texas, at the end of the season.

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Erik Daenitz

Kalee Whipple was held to 10 pKalee Whipple was held to 10 points in the Utes’ loss to UNLV onWednesday night. Utah will look to protect their first place standing when they face BYU on Saturday at the Huntsman Center.