Smith, Thorburn get shot at elusive tourney crown

first_imgDENVER — In their four years at Utah, Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn have won nearly 100 games, three league titles and a couple of NCAA games.The one thing they’ve never won is a Mountain West Conference tournament, which they’ll have one more chance to do this afternoon.The Utes moved into the finals with a 61-45 victory over UNLV Friday and will face BYU today at 4 p.m. at the Pepsi Center.”It would mean a lot to win it,” said Smith. “For the last two years, we’ve had to watch the celebration and then anxiously await the selection show. It would be great to turn things around this year.””I want to know what it feels like to cut down the nets,” added Thorburn.As usual, Smith and Thorburn were big reasons why the Utes won their 23rd game against six losses.Smith didn’t come close to the 29 points she scored in the first round win over Air Force, getting 11 points Friday, but she came up with four steals, four assists and four rebounds.Thorburn also had another fine overall game, leading the Utes with 14 points and also handing out eight assists and grabbing seven rebounds.”It’s a good win,” said Ute coach Elaine Elliott. “It was a good, hard-played game, very physical, and both teams really got after it.”To win, the Utes had to overcome a first-half scoreboard malfunction and some relentless offensive rebounding by the Rebels to move into the finals.With 11:03 left in the first half, the shot clock behind the east basket stopped working, causing a delay of nearly 25 minutes. Both teams tried to stay warm, putting their warmups back on and shooting some layups.Utah led 15-10 at the time but seemed to lose some of their momentum after the long break, missing their first four shots and turning the ball over, allowing the Lady Rebels to creep back into the game.A pair of free throws by Kameca Simmons gave the Rebels a 20-19 lead with 5:23 left, but the Utes came back to take a 27-24 halftime lead.Early in the second half the Utes built up a nine-point lead at 39-30 but couldn’t shake the pesky Rebels. Utah pushed the lead to 11, only to see UNLV score six straight points and pull within 47-42 with 4:48 left on a jumper by Sheena Moore.Then Smith found Joh-Teena Filipe inside for a layup, Heidi Carlson hit two free throws and Jessica Perry scored on an inside shot to push the Ute lead back to 11.”She played within herself tonight,” said Elliott of Filipe, a freshman from Skyline High, who had eight points and four rebounds off the bench. “She did what she can do really well, which is be a big body on the boards.”The Rebels actually outboarded the Utes 38 to 35 and came up with 17 offensive boards. Eliott was well aware of that, but thankful it didn’t make a difference.”It’s a difficult task, because they’re pretty relentless on the boards,” Elliott said. “It’s one of those things that can be a factor, but today it didn’t end up being so, which was fortunate for us.”Along with Thorburn and Smith, the Utes also got 11 points apiece from Carlsen and Julie Larsen. They only shot 38.9 percent from the field, but held UNLV to 29.1 percent.UNLV (18-10) was led by Nikki Hitchens with 11 points and Sherry McCracklin with 10 points and 12 rebounds. The Utes beat the Cougars 70-52 at Provo, but lost at home by one point. Tale of the tape — Women’s basketball: BYU vs. Utah E-mail: [email protected]center_img Relatedlast_img