Seniors’ final game has title implications

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

The U women’s basketball team has an important farewell ceremony tonight in the Huntsman Center.

The Utes hope to take a step closer to bringing home another banner as well.

Morgan Warburton, Katie King and Deanne Stevenson will play the final home game of their collegiate career, and Utah will need to win to give itself breathing room.

The game is crucial in the race for the Mountain West Conference title, with the Utes clinging to a one-game lead over second-place San Diego State.

If Utah loses to New Mexico, it will set up a potential must-win situation in Fort Worth, Texas, against TCU this weekend. San Diego split with TCU, meaning that Utah could still wrap up a No. 1 seed with a win Saturday. A Utah win Thursday would merely put the pressure on San Diego State to win its final two games against Colorado State and UNLV.

Emotions figure to run high no matter what, especially for head coach Elaine Elliott.

“I don’t ever like to talk about this day,” Elliott said. “You wish they were pros and could just stick around. They’re all amazing kids, and all three have made amazing contributions to our program. It’s bittersweet.”

Warburton’s career will go down as one of the best in the Utes’ storied program. The All-American senior, who is also a finalist for the Naismith Award, has led the conference in scoring this season at 18.9 points per game. She is sixth on the all-time Utah scoring chart with 1,720 career points and has helped Utah to a conference title. There isn’t much she hasn’t accomplished during her four years as a Ute.

“Warburton’s got the accolades that go with having the kind of talent she does,” Elliott said. “She’s been on successful teams, too. She’s really done it all.”

With four successful years to draw on, Warburton had a hard time picking exact moments she will remember most about her time with the Utes and said that her entire career has just been a joy from start to finish.

“I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of it,” Warburton said. “Thinking back to my freshman year, and there were the tough games that we lost here that I will always remember. And this whole year’s been really good, especially all the home games we’ve had.”

Warburton will be tough for Utah to replace next year, but role players such as King will be missed as well next season. King has had a breakthrough year for the Utes, almost doubling her scoring average from 6.6 points a game to 11.1 points per game. She has also been one of Utah’s more productive rebounders, averaging 7.2 a game.

“This is a good way to go out,” King said. “You always say going into your senior year that you want it to be one of the best seasons you’ve ever had. I can say that’s probably true. Being with the team, and the team chemistry, I’ve really enjoyed every moment of it.”

The two senior starters will have a tough test awaiting them for their senior-day game. New Mexico gave the Utes all they could handle a month ago at The Pit. Utah had to overcome a six-point deficit in under two minutes of play to defeat the Lobos, 53-50. Warburton figures that the intensity level of the team will be a huge factor as to the outcome of the game.

“Our intensity and our defense are going to have to be top-notch,” Warburton said. “We can’t start like we did against BYU when we came out slow. New Mexico is a great team, and is solid in everything they do. We just got to match their intensity and be above them the whole game.”

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Lucas Isley

Morgan Warburton will play her final game at the Huntsman center tonight when Uath faces New Mexico. Warburton ranks sixth in scoring at Utah with 1,720 points.