Shona Thorburn and Lana Sitterud celebrate Utah's victory over BYU in Friday's MWC Tournament semifinal game. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
March 11, 2005
DENVER, Colo. -- The University of Utah women's basketball team will play in Saturday's Mountain West Conference Championship game for the second consecutive season. The Utes advanced to the title game with a 64-48 victory over BYU Friday afternoon at Pepsi Center.
Utah (25-6) took control of the game midway through the first half. BYU (19-10) jumped out to an early 9-4 advantage. But junior Kim Smith scored five straight points to tie the contest at 9-9. Ute senior Lana Sitterud followed that up with one of her three three-pointers, giving Utah a 12-9 lead. The Utes would never trail again.
The Cougars trailed by just one, 12-11, when Julie Sullivan scored with 13:18 remaining in the first half. Utah then rattled off a 17-3 run over the next six minutes to take control of the contest, 29-14. The Utes got two three-pointers from Smith, one each from Shauna Brouillard and Heidi Carlsen during that span.
Utah was still on top by double digits, leading 35-24, late in the first half. BYU's Ambrosia Anderson pulled her team within eight at the intermission, 35-27, with a three-pointer to end the first period. The Cougars pulled within six points twice in the first minutes of the second half on buckets from Sullivan.
But the Utes would never allow BYU to make a run. Sitterud answered the second of Sullivan's early second-half scores with a three-pointer at the 18:59 mark, giving Utah a nine-point lead, 40-31. BYU never got closer than seven again.
The Cougars trailed by nine when Sullivan scored on a layup with just less than eight minutes remaining in the contest. But Utah junior Shona Thorburn hit her lone field goal of the game, a three-pointer from the right corner, giving the Utes a 12-point lead, 55-43. The Utes' advantage never dipped below 11 again and Utah cruised to the 16-point victory.
For the game, Utah shot just 33.9 percent from the field. But the Utes were hot from outside the arc, hitting 11-of-24 for 45.8-percent from three-point range. BYU, meanwhile, converted at 43.8 percent from the floor, but couldn't match Utah's range. The Cougars were just 2-of-14 (14.3 percent) from the arc.
With Friday's victory, Utah advanced to its third MWC Tournament championship game in the six years of the league's existence. The Utes won the inaugural MWC Tournament, defeating BYU. Last season, Utah faced off with New Mexico in the title game, dropping a 71-50 decision.
New Mexico won both meetings with Utah this season, taking a 61-55 victory in Albuquerque and a 70-63 decision in Salt Lake City. The Lobos have won the last four meetings with the Utes. Tipoff for Saturday's Mountain West Conference Championship game is slated for 4 p.m.