Fourth-seeded Utah needed overtime, but advanced to Friday’s semifinals with a 51-45 victory over No. 5 New Mexico in the second-round of the Mountain West Conference women’s basketball tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Taryn Wicijowski scored 22 points and had eight rebounds for the Lady Utes, who outrebounded the Lady Lobos, 40-31.
Janita Badon hit a 3-pointer with 1:07 remaining in regulation to tie the score with less than a minute remaining. Each team had a chance to score in the final minute, but found it tough to get clean looks as was the case all game.
Utah star Kalee Whipple struggled all game, but made sure her only field goal was meaningful.
The senior hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining to stretch the Utes’ lead to 47-43. New Mexico got two free throws on the other end, but Utah threw a long inbounds pass to a streaking Badon for a clinching layup.
Whipple finished with just five points and was 1-for-12 from the field, but Utah coach Elaine Elliott pointed to the other things she did to help the team grind out a victory.
“What does she do? She has a career-high night in rebounding,” she said of Whipple‘s 16 boards. “That’s how you show your guttiness and your determination to win.”
New Mexico led late in regulation after an 8-0 run gave it a 38-35 advantage with 4:05 to play. Badon’s 3-pointer was the only points the rest of the way.
The Lady Lobos lost despite making 8 of 11 from 3-point range.
Eileen Weissmann led New Mexico with 15 points. Sara Halasz added 14, while each of them pulled down five rebounds. Amy Beggin also made just one field goal as the Lady Utes beat the Lady Lobos for the eighth straight time.
Utah will play top-seeded TCU in Friday’s semifinals.
Saving the best for last
Kalee Whipple hasn’t had many days like this during an outstanding college career at Utah.
The senior guard is a three-time all-MWC performer, but made just one field goal in the victory.
It was a huge one, giving the Lady Lobos a 4-point cushion in the final minute of overtime.
“On the last shot, I just felt like one was bound to fall,” she said. “I came off that screen and I felt open so I just let it go.”
New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said the play Utah ran to get Whipple open was one his team was well-prepared for, but she just found a way to score.
“We got beat on a play that we had defended well all night long,” New Mexico coach Don Flanagan said. “She gets open one time and just makes a huge shot.”
Poor choice of songs
The popular 80’s song “Come on Eileen” is a staple of the Utah band. They have played the Dexys Midnight Runners jam during halftime each of the two days here at the MWC tournament.
It might not be the best choice for today’s game, however.
Eileen Weissmann has been one of New Mexico’s best players today.
Not how they drew it up in the locker room
Utah opened the second half with two poor offensive possessions.
The Lady Utes came out of the locker room and committed back-to-back shot clock violations. They were taking entirely too long to get into their offense and then New Mexico was stopping penetration late and eliminating the passing lanes.
Utah didn’t even get a shot off in either possession.
Art imitating life?
Buffalo Wild Wings runs commercials everywhere with the theme of “We love overtime.”
The commercials feature referees doing things to influence games to go to overtime so patrons watching at the restaurant franchise can stick around and watch for a bit longer.
Each game in the tournament, an announcement is made stating a lucky fan will get a $100 gift card to the chain if that particular game goes to an extra session.
They can probably add this game to their commercial reel.
New Mexico held a 3-point lead with less than two minutes to play when it was called for a horrendous charging call. The Lobos should have gone to the line with a chance to go up by five, but instead Utah got the ball. The Lady Utes eventually hit a 3-pointer to tie the game and force overtime.
At least someone got free wings out of the deal.
Let’s just hope it was a New Mexico fan. They deserve that at the very least.
The last second-round game of the day pits Wyoming against No. 3 San Diego State.
The Lady Aztecs will be playing their first game, while the Cowgirls defeated host UNLV last night.
San Diego State was the preseason pick to win the league and is loaded with talent, much like the school’s men’s team.