GAME DATA: Utah opens its 1997-98 schedule with the first of two pre-season exhibition games against the Portland Saints on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center.Utah Probable Line-Up:
Pos. No. Name Ht. Yr. Hometown 1996-97 Statistics G 10 Alli Bills 5-7 Sr. Sandy, Utah 8.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 7.6 apg G 33 Julie Krommenhoek 5-9 Sr. American Fork, Utah 17.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.6 apg C 44 Kristi Rose 6-4 So. Palmdale, Calif. 2.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.1 bpg F 32 Lori Red 5-11 So. Provo, Utah 2.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg or 11 Amy Alcorn 5-8 Sr. Oregon City, Ore. 1.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg F 42 Angie Thill 6-0 Sr. Belt, Mont. 2.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg Off The Bench: Pos. No. Name Ht. Yr. Hometown 1996-97 Statistics G 14 Rosie Shelley 5-9 Jr. American Fork, Utah 0.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg F 15 Lindsay Sodja 6-1 Fr. Taylorsville, Utah - - - F 21 Kristina Anderson 6-1 Fr. Eugene, Ore. - - - G 22 Tiana Fuertes 5-3 So. Honolulu, Hawaii 1.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 1.9 apg F/G 24 Amy Ewert 6-0 Fr. Vancouver, B.C. - - - G 25 ReShawnda Richardson 5-7 So. Long Beach, Calif. - - - G 30 Janna Whitman 5-10 So. Magna, Utah 1.1 ppg, 0.4 rpg F/C 35 Laura Ross Allen 6-2 Sr. Sparks, Nev. 4.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg
|Senior Julie Krommenhoek averaged over 17 points per game for Utah last season.|
A QUICK LOOK AT UTAH: The Utes will be gunning for their fourth Western Athletic Conference championship of some form in as many years and its fourth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance this season. Utah won the WAC Tournament in '95 and took the WAC regular-season championship in 1995-96. The Utes return 10 of 14 letterwinners from last year's team that went 25-6 overall, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history and won the WAC Mountain Division title by four games with a 15-1 record.
FROM THE TRAINING ROOM: Lori Red has achilles tendonitis and her status for Saturday's game is unknown. Kristina Anderson is suffering from stress fractures in both tibias. Her participation in practice has been limited and she is questionable for Saturday's game.
COMING UP: Utah plays its final exhibition game of the season against Spartak-Moscow on Nov. 14 at 5:15 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The Utes open the regular season at Weber State on Nov. 21 at 5:30 p.m. Utah's home opener is on Nov. 28 against UC Irvine at 7:00 p.m.
WAC'S TOP TEAM: Utah begins its 24th season as the most successful program in the history of the Western Athletic Conference. The U.'s 467-191 (.709) overall record, 76-22 (.776) mark in league games and eight NCAA Tournament appearances are all top marks in the WAC. Utah's two conference championships, including the 1997 Mountain Division title, rank second to San Diego State's three WAC titles.
EUROPEAN VACATION: Utah got a head start on the 1997-98 season by playing five games against European professional teams during a 10-day trip to France and Switzerland last summer. The Utes went 4-1 on the tour. The team left for France on Aug. 15, spent the first four days in Paris, toured Switzerland for three days and went to Nice, France, for the last three days of the trip before returning home on Sept. 5. Senior Julie Krommenhoek averaged 18 points a game to lead the team in scoring. Sophomore 6-2 center Kristi Rose averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds a game.
|Alli Bills led the nation in assists last year.|
1997-98 OUTLOOK: Two outstanding senior starters come back to lead the Utes. Julie Krommenhoek (17.4 ppg, 2.6 apg), a 5-9 guard from American Fork, Utah, was an honorable mention Kodak All-American and the WAC's fourth-leading scorer last season. Alli Bills (8.4 ppg, 7.6 apg), a 5-7 guard from Sandy, Utah, led the nation in assists last year and was named to the WAC Mountain Division all-defensive team.
Five key reserves from last season will contend for starting positions in the frontcourt. Senior 6-2 forward/center Laura Ross Allen (4.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg) started the first five contests at center, played in 26 games and scored in double figures four times last season. Kristi Rose (2.9 ppg, 1.1 bpg), a 6-4 sophomore center, ranked third in the WAC and recorded the eighth-most blocked shots in a single season (34) at Utah. Rose scored in double figures twice, and set Utah and WAC (league games only) records with nine blocked shots against Colorado State on Feb. 8. Sophomore 5-11 forward Lori Red (2.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg) played in all 31 games at small forward and was splitting the time with senior starter Lisa Thueson early in the season. Senior 6-0 forward Angie Thill (2.0 ppg, 2.1 rpg) saw her playing time increase off the bench late in the season and had four boards or more in seven games. Senior Amy Alcorn (1.9 ppg, 0.8 rpg) was set back early last season after missing the first nine games with a stress fracture, but could see significant playing time at the two or three position this season.
Sophomore 5-3 guard Tiana Fuertes (1.4 ppg, 1.9 apg) started three games at point guard last season while Bills was injured and averaged 13.7 minutes a game in 30 contests. Sophomore 5-10 guard Janna Whitman (1.1 ppg, 0.4 rpg) and junior 5-9 guard Rosie Shelley (1.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg) will provide depth in the guard court.
THE NEWCOMERS: The Utes welcome three freshmen to the team this season and gain the talents of sophomore guard ReShawnda Richardson, who sat out last season as a partial qualifier under NCAA admissions standards. The rookies are Kristina Anderson, a 6-0 forward from Marist High School in Eugene, Ore., Amy Ewert, a 6-0 forward/guard from Kitsilano High School in Vancouver, B.C., and Lindsay Sodja, a 6-1 forward from Taylorsville, Utah.
Anderson, a USA Today All-American in 1996, is a two-time first-team all-state selection and 3A Player of the Year in Oregon. Anderson led Marist to its second-consecutive state championship in 1997 with a 27-3 record and was named to the all-tournament team. She averaged a team-best 18 points and 10 rebounds a game, and shot 31 percent from three-point range and 78 percent from the free-throw line. Ewert is the first Canadian to play for the Utes. She scored 20.2 points and pulled down 10.6 rebounds a game to earn first-team all-star and league MVP honors during the 1995-96 season. Sodja was a three-time first-team all-state and region honoree, and named the Region 3 Player of the Year in '96. Sodja averaged 21.0 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks per game last season. Richardson is a native of Long Beach, Calif., who was able to practice with the team all of last season.
|Kristi Rose returns as Utah's top shot blocker.|
STATISTICALLY SPEAKING: Utah returns 56.7 percent of its points from last season, including two of the top four scorers in Julie Krommenhoek (17.4 ppg) and Alli Bills (8.4 ppg). The loss of the starting frontcourt in center Sara Works (10.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and forwards Hilary King-Noel (11.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Lisa Thueson (7.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg) is evident in Utah bringing back just 44.8 percent of its rebounds from '96-97. The Utes retain 79.0 percent of their assists from last year, with all three of the top assist getters returning in Bills (7.6 apg), Krommenhoek (2.6 apg) and Tiana Fuertes (1.9 apg). The team also keeps 98.0 percent of its three-point shots and 71.0 percent of its steals from a year ago, with Krommenhoek and Bills the top two in both categories. Krommenhoek averaged 2.4 steals and 3.3 three-pointers per game, and shot 44.2 percent from behind the arc. Bills shot 30.8 percent from downtown and averaged 2.6 steals. Utah brings back 56.5 percent of its blocked shots, retuning the top shot blocker in Kristi Rose (1.1 bpg), but loses its second-best shot blockers (0.5 bpg) in King-Noel and Works.
HEAD COACH ELAINE ELLIOTT... is the winningest coach in Utah women's basketball history. Elliott, entering her 15th season as Utah's head coach after spending four years as an assistant coach at the U., will be aiming for her 300th career victory this season. She enters the campaign with a 281-127 career record and a 138-38 mark in conference games. Her number of career wins and winning percentage (.689) is the best of any coach in the Western Athletic Conference. Her coaching tenure is also the longest among the league coaches. She has had nine 20-win seasons and three 19-win campaigns, averaging 20 wins in the 14 previous years at the U. Elliott was named the WAC Mountain Division Coach of the Year last season after guiding Utah to the Mountain Division title. Utah won the WAC regular-season title under Elliott in 1995-96 and the WAC Tournament championship in 1995. Elliott has coached teams to a total of four regular-season conference crowns (1986, 87, 89, 96), one divisional title (1997) and four league tournament championships (1989, 90, 91, 94). Seven of her teams have advanced to the NCAA Tournament (1986, 89, 90, 91, 95, 96, 97).
KROMMENHOEK GUNNING FOR UTAH AND WAC CAREER SCORING MARKS: Senior guard Julie Krommenhoek has already established herself as one of the most prolific shooters in the history of the Utah program and the Western Athletic Conference. Entering the 1997-98 season with 1,542 points, Krommenhoek ranks fourth in career scoring at Utah and needs 533 points this season to take over the career scoring mark. She also ranks fifth in the WAC in career scoring, needing 307 points to claim the top spot.
Krommenhoek already tops the Utah and WAC career charts for three-point field goals made (256) and attempted (594), and owns the top three single-season marks in both three-point categories. She set school and conference single-season records last season with 103 three-pointers made and 233 attempted.
KROMMENHOEK SHOOTING FOR ALL-AMERICA HONORS ONCE AGAIN: Julie Krommenhoek, a Kodak honorable mention All-American the past two seasons and a District VII All-American in '94-95, figures to be one of the top shooters in the country once again in '97-98. Last season, Krommenhoek ranked second in the nation with a career-best average of 3.3 three-pointers per game and fourth in three-point field goal percentage (44.2), leading the Western Athletic Conference in both categories. She was also 18th in the NCAA and third in the WAC free throw percentage (84.3). A three-time first-team all-WAC selection, Krommenhoek is the conference's fourth-best returning scorer (17.4 ppg). Last season, the American Fork, Utah, native ranked ninth in the conference in field goal percentage (42.7) and 10th in steals (2.4) overall. She scored 18.4 points a game in league games to rank third.
Krommenhoek, who has been named to the WAC all-tournament team each of the past three seasons, scored 20 points or more 11 times last season, including a career-best 35 against Rice on Jan. 23. Also against the Owls, she tied her own school record with seven three-pointers (in 11 attempts). In the process of scoring 24 points against Oregon in the championship game of the Pepsi Shootout in Eugene, Ore., on Nov. 30, 1996, Krommenhoek broke her own Utah and WAC all-time records with 17 three-point field goal attempts. Her previous best mark was 16 three-point attempts against Southern Mississippi on March 16, 1996. Also last season, Krommenhoek posted her first career double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds against Southern California on Dec. 14, 1996.
BILLS IN PURSUIT OF UTAH AND WAC CAREER ASSISTS RECORDS: Senior point guard Alli Bills ranked first in the nation with 7.6 assists per game last season, recording a school record 213 on the season. That brings her career total to 400 in essentially two and one-third seasons of playing time. Bills missed the last 20 games of her sophomore season due to a torn ACL in her right knee.
Bills enters the 1997-98 season in fourth place in career assists at the U., needing just 41 more to take over first place from Karen Alcorn (1988-92). Bills also owns two of the top three single-season assists totals in school history, dishing out 160 assists, the third-most in the Utah record books, as a freshman in 1994-95. Bills also ranks fourth in career assists in the WAC, needing 124 this season to take over the top spot from Dee Dee Dominguez of Colorado State (1993-96).
MORE ON BILLS: Judging by her play, one would never guess that Alli Bills had undergone two ACL operations prior to last season. Look at her stats, and it is clearly apparent that Bills played the best basketball of her career in 1996-97.
Bills, who was named to the Western Athletic Conference all-defensive team, posted 10 assists or more seven times last season. She dished out a career-best 14 assists against SMU on March 7 in the semifinals of the WAC Tournament. Bills also scored in double figures 11 times in '96-97. Bills had her first career triple-double against Colorado State on Feb. 26, with 13 points, a career-best 14 rebounds and 10 assists. She also posted her first two career double-doubles last season, getting 13 points and 10 assists against Brigham Young on Feb. 6, and 10 points and 11 assists against SMU on Feb. 13. She matched a career-best with 23 points against SMU on Jan. 18.
THE SCHEDULE: Utah's 1997-98 regular-season schedule features 11 homes games and two potential match-ups against NCAA Tournament teams from last year.
Once again, Utah will be aligned in the Mountain Division of the 16-team Western Athletic Conference with Air Force, Brigham Young, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, UTEP and Wyoming. Utah will face each of the teams in the Mountain Division home and away, and have two cross-over games with Rice of the Pacific Division. The Utes' games with Rice will not count in the league standings. The WAC season concludes with the conference tournament, March 2-7 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
Montana, which will host Utah on Dec. 13 at 7:00 p.m. in Missoula, Mont., earned a ninth seed in the NCAA West Region last season with a 25-3 record. The Utes' second date with an NCAA Tournament team could come against Kansas State on Dec. 6. Both teams are competing in the Kansas State Tournament, and would need to win their first round games the preceding night to meet in the championship game. Kansas State was a 10th seed in the East Region with a 19-11 mark last year.
LAST YEAR'S TEAM ONE OF THE BEST ALL-TIME: Posting a 25-6 record, Utah finished the 1996-97 season with an .806 winning percentage, which was the best season winning percentage in the 14-year tenure of head coach Elaine Elliott. The Utes' pervious best record under Elliott was a 24-6 mark (.800) posted in 1988-89. Finishing the WAC season with a 15-1 record, Utah's .938 league winning percentage ranked as the second-best in the 23-year history of Utah women's basketball and the best under Elliott. The only conference record bettering that of the '96-97 Utes is the 13-0 mark posted by Fern Gardner's '76-77 team, which won the Intermountain Athletic Conference title.
UTAH IN THE NCAA RANKINGS LAST YEAR: Utah ranked 17th in the nation in scoring defense in 1996-97. The Utes gave up an average of just 57.9 points a game, and held five opponents to under 50 points. Utah's defense gave up more than 80 points on only one occasion, surrendering 81 in a loss to Southern California on Dec. 14. Utah also limited opponents to 38.7 percent field goal shooting on the season. Utah held the opposition to under 40 percent field goal shooting in 19 games, including the first nine games of the Western Athletic Conference season. The Utes also ranked 17th in the nation with a .806 winning percentage, the best of any team in the WAC.
MILESTONE STREAKS FOR '96-97 UTES: With the Utes' loss to Colorado State on Feb. 8, three monumental winning streaks came to an end. Utah's third-best in the nation homecourt winning streak ceased at 28 games. It was the first home loss since Utah fell to San Diego State (70-55) on Jan. 12, 1995. Since then, the U. had also won 16 straight home conference games. The string of home wins went into the books second-best to Utah's all-time best home game winning streak of 37 games from Jan. 30, 1976 through Feb. 3, 1979. Utah finished the season with a 12-1 home record, and has won 30 of the last 31 contests played in the Huntsman Center.
Utah had also won 12-consecutive games prior to the loss to Colorado State, which tied the third-longest winning streak in school history. The Utes also had 12-consecutive wins from Jan. 20, 1989 (U.S International, 67-64) through March 3, 1989 (Colorado State, 74-68).
At 10-0, Utah was off to its best start ever in Western Athletic Conference play in '96-97. The Utes had also equalled their all-time best start to the conference schedule. Utah won its first 10 games (finishing 10-2) in 1986-87 in the High Country Athletic Conference (HCAC).
UTES THIRD IN THE WAC IN ATTENDANCE: Utah averaged 1,417 fans over 13 home games to rank third in the Western Athletic Conference in attendance in 1996-97. New Mexico was first in the WAC attendance race with an average of 4,863 in 13 games and Colorado State second with 1,719 in 11 home dates. The Utah/BYU game on Jan. 10 drew 8,031 fans, the second-largest crowd ever to attend a Utah home game and the seventh-largest in WAC history. The Utes' largest crowd for a home contest was on Feb. 26, 1993, when 12,187 turned out to see the Utes and Cougars. That attendance figure was the WAC single-game record until New Mexico drew 17,213 fans for its game with Utah in The Pit on Jan. 4, 1997.