Warburton helps Utah clinch share of MWC Crown

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

It’s always good to go out on top.

Morgan Warburton and the Utes were able to hold off a scrappy New Mexico Lobos team on Senior Day, 57-54. The win clinched a share of the Mountain West Conference title for the Utes, their seventh in the conference’s 10-year existence. Warburton led all scorers with 21 points, while Kalee Whipple had a solid outing, contributing 13 points and seven rebounds.

It was only fitting for Warburton to end her illustrious career by having a performance to remember. With Utah up by 10 early in the second half, New Mexico went on a 16-6 run to tie the game at 46-46. With only five minutes remaining, it appeared the Lobos had all of the momentum. But Warburton came through as usual, scoring seven straight points for the Utes to put them up 53-49. Whipple made a key layup, and freshman Janita Badon calmly sank two free throws to clinch the win for Utah.

“Well, obviously we were looking to go to Warburton,” said head coach Elaine Elliott. “And we have a second kid. We can always go to Kalee too, and that helps us. But this game was Warburton’s. We were calling her number all game.”

The first half was almost the exact same story as the second. New Mexico led by a small margin for the majority of the half, thanks to hot shooting by the Lobos.

Utah got off to another sluggish start in the Huntsman Center. New Mexico was having its way offensively, shooting nearly 50 percent for most of the first half to maintain its small lead. But Warburton was instrumental again in getting her team the lead, scoring seven points in the final five minutes and five seconds of the opening half to give her team a 34-30 lead.

“You always want to go into the locker room with a good feeling,” Warburton said. “You don’t want to go in down a couple of points. I was really proud of how our team played. We stuck in there and gutted it out and I was really proud of everyone.”

With her final game on the hill now behind her, the senior from Helper figured her emotions would be at an all-time high. However, she said she wasn’t nearly as emotional as she figured she would be.

“I thought I’d be more sad,” Warburton said. “I am sad, but at the same time I’m so happy. It’s just been a fun year, and a fun four years for me. I can’t complain about anything.”

What makes the win even more rewarding for Warburton, along with fellow seniors Katie King and Deanne Stevenson, is that their last home game helped Utah get a share of the MWC title. The win puts the Utes at 13-2 in conference play, which puts them one game ahead of second-place San Diego State. A win against TCU on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas, will give the Utes the conference title outright and a No. 1 overall seed heading into the MWC Tournament on Tuesday.

“It’s really hard to win the conference,” Elliott said. “We try to do it every year, and we have that expectation and when the time comes, we keep telling ourselves that we have got to win the next one, and the next one. It just perpetuates itself, but in a good way. And that’s just the way people think here.”

[email protected]

Erik Daenitz

Morgan Warburton scored 21 points and pulled down 5 rebounds in her final home game versus New Mexico Wednesday. With the 57-54 win the Utes secured at least a share of the regular season Mountain West conference championship.