Utes to face No. 1 Terps

By Quinn Wilcox, Staff Writer

It won’t get much bigger than this for Utah.

A trip to the Sweet 16 is at stake tonight when the No. 9-seeded Utes take on the No. 1-seeded Maryland Terrapins. This game figures to be Utah’s toughest challenge of the season, as many say the 29-4 Terps are the best team in the nation not named Connecticut.

To make things more difficult for head coach Elaine Elliott’s bunch, the game will be played at College Park, Md.8212;the Terrapins’ home court8212;a spot in which Maryland is 18-0.

This year is eerily similar to the Utes’ tourney experience last year.

Utah was knocked out last year in a similar situation as the Utes were shipped out to West Lafayette, Ind., to take on the Purdue Boilermakers on their home floor.

The Utes struggled against Purdue’s home crowd and the hot-shooting of the Boilermakers, causing their once-promising season to end in the first week of the tournament. The Utes will also have to put up with a hostile environment this year, as Maryland fans figure to show in bunches.

“There is a saying that home games are nothing unless you are the home team on your home court,” Elliott said. “That is real, that is the reality. Half of what you do is going in and playing on someone else’s home court, and you draw on that and you have a scenario, and you are simply come ready to play. We have won other games where the advantage was not ours, so we will try to draw on that.”

These two teams aren’t strangers to each other in tournament play.

It was just three years ago that Utah and Maryland competed for a trip to the Final Four. Maryland ended up beating the Utes 75-65 in overtime. Maryland’s two star players this year, seniors Kristi Toliver and Marissa Coleman, were both factors in that Elite Eight game, as they combined for 32 points.

Utah only has one player remaining from the appearance8212;Morgan Warburton. She put up 11 points in 24 minutes off the bench. Warburton said she feels that her previous matchup with the Terps will help her realize just how intense the Utes will need to play if they want to come out on top.

“Yeah, I remember that,” Warburton said. “That was a hard game. I did not play as much, but when I did get in, I felt the pressure from Maryland, so we kind of know what we need to do to get it done, to play at that level. We are ready to play and give it a shot.”

Utah’s biggest challenge from a personnel standpoint will be stopping Toliver, the Terps’ star senior point guard.

Janita Badon and Hannah Stephens will be going up against their toughest defensive assignment to date. Toliver leads the Terrapins in points scored at 18.7 a game and assists per game with 4.8. In the Terps’ first-round game against No. 16-seeded Dartmouth, Toliver had just as many points in the first half, 23, as the entire rest of the Dartmouth squad. Badon will no doubt log plenty of minutes in assignment to Toliver, as Elliott feels that she is the better primed defensively out of her two freshmen point guards.

“(Badon) is pretty good at locking into somebody,” Elliott said. “She doesn’t do a lot of other things well yet defensively, but that’s a good job for her. Lock-in, no-help, stay. She’s pretty good at that.”

Tip-off for the second-round contest is set for 5 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN or ESPN2.

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Tyler Cobb

Kalee Whipple received the ESPN player of the game award in the Utes? 60-30 blowout win versus Villanova Sunday. The Utes face No. 1 seed Maryland tonight at 5 p.m. with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.