Women to take on UCLA

By By Liz Frome , Staff writer

By Liz Frome , Staff writer

The 1-1 Utes will travel to California to take on UCLA in the JHG Jam Saturday, Utah’s first tournament of the 2009-2010 season.

The Utes moved to 1-1 in the preseason with a narrow 60-59 win over Minnesota on Tuesday. They will be matching up against the 1-1 Bruins, who also lost their season opener against Illinois State.

Utah leads the series record 3-1 with UCLA, but will be meeting the Bruins for the first time since 2001.

In Tuesday’s win over the Gophers, Utah’s Kalee Whipple, Janita Badon and Taryn Wicijowski all scored in double figures with Whipple and Wicijowski pulling down nine and 10 rebounds, respectively.

Head coach Elaine Elliott said that the win was a huge step for the young team, but that there’s still a lot to work on.

“We’re really happy that we got the W because we certainly made enough mistakes with that six to eight point lead that we almost lost the game,” Elliott said. “They may not be mistakes that anybody else saw defensively, but we made some major, ridiculous mistakes. We’ve got to be a smarter team.”

A significant error in the Utes’ win over the Gophers was turning the ball over 22 times to Minnesota’s 14, allowing the Gophers to come with one before running out the clock.

After being held to a two-point buzzer-beater in the first half of Tuesday’s game, Whipple, a senior forward and the Utes’ leading scorer, said that things need to be changed up to get more points on the board early in the game.

“When your outside shot’s not going in, I think it’s important, especially for me, just to get in there and…get yourself started,” Whipple said. “Maybe a put-back to get your shot (going).”

Ten of the Utes’ turnovers came from sophomore point guard Badon, who also had six rebounds and six assists on the night. Elliott said the decrease in turnovers and big mistakes will come with more experience, but that right now, Utah is still a very inexperienced team.

“What we now have is a sophomore or freshman playing in every single position, in either a starting or backup role. That’s scary,” Elliott said.

Although Badon struggled on turnovers, freshman Wicijowski had a solid 13-point performance in the first half before being held silent in the second, but managed to come away with a double-double for the Utes in her second career start.

Switching roles in the second half, Whipple found her shot and took over scoring the points that Wicijowski had in the first. The duo will likely prove to be an important part of Utah’s performance Saturday against UCLA.

Adding more fire to the Utes’ week, Whipple found herself among the athletes named to the 2009-2010 Naismith Trophy Preseason Watch List, announced Thursday by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The national award is given to college basketball’s player of the year.

Earning her spot on the list, Whipple finished second in the league in scoring last season and holds the No. 10 all-time scoring spot at the U with 1,427 career points. She was awarded a unanimous All-Mountain West Conference first-team spot for 2008-2009, and averaged 17 points per game, collecting three 30+-point games, and reaching double figures in 31 of 33 games.

The Utes’ win over Minnesota marked Whipple’s 19th consecutive game in double figures.

Whipple and her fellow Utes will take on the Bruins Saturday at 9:30 p.m. MT. The game will be aired on the Mtn.

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