Utah Utes basketball: Women upset No. 1-seeded TCU at MWC tourney

first_img Sawyer helps whitewash TCU LAS VEGAS — Halie Sawyer’s main job in Friday’s Mountain West Conference semifinal game against TCU was guarding and slowing down Helen Sverrisdotter, the MWC women’s player of the year.The senior from Panguitch did her job, holding Sverrisdotter to 12 points — including only five until the final minute — on 3-of-13 shooting. But Sawyer was just as valuable on the offensive end, scoring a career-high 24 points and tying a career-high with 15 rebounds to lead the Utes to a 69-57 win over the regular-season champions at the Thomas & Mack Center.The victory sends the Utes into today’s finals, where they’ll play San Diego State at 2 p.m. MST for the MWC tournament title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. It marks the second straight year the Utes and Aztecs will meet in the finals. Utah won last year’s game, 63-58.Coming into the game, Sawyer had never scored more than 13 points this season and had once scored 19 in a non-conference game last year. But she scored nine of Utah’s first 15 points, including her first 3-pointer of the season, and added 13 in the second half.”We’ve been kind of waiting for this,” said Utah coach Elaine Elliott. “Halie has the capabilities. Kids can make people pay and she absolutely did so tonight.”Sawyer, who had played in the shadow of Kalee Whipple her whole career, was reticent about her huge game. She guarded Sverrisdotter, the 6-foot-1 junior from Iceland, throughout the game. And, until the final minute, Sverrisdotter had just five points on 1-of-11 shooting.”She’s a great player. I knew that if I could contain her as much as I could that my team would help me, and they sure did,” Sawyer said. “As for rebounding and scoring, I think it just went my way tonight. I felt good in warmups and it (continued) throughout the game and I was happy about that.”Besides Sawyer, the Utes got 14 points from Whipple and a career-high 13 points from freshman Iwalani Rodrigues. The Utes shot 54.8 percent from the field.Leading 27-22 at halftime, the Utes came out on fire in the second half, scoring 18 straight points in less than seven minutes.Meanwhile, the top-seeded Horned Frogs couldn’t hit a thing, missing their first 12 shots before Eboni Mangum finally scored on a layup off a steal with 13:08 left. The Utes’ lead got as high as 24 at 50-26 with 11:12 left.The Utes were up 54-31 with 7:40 left when Ute freshman center Taryn Wicijowski was called for a foul on a play when she was elbowed in the face by TCU’s Starr Crawford. The officials consulted and looked at replays for several minutes before deciding not to call a flagrant foul.Wicijowski left the game for good, but after being concerned about a possible concussion, she appears to be OK and will play in today’s final.At that point, TCU started pressing and began to get back into the game with a 9-0 run, as the rattled Utes committed five turnovers. But the Horned Frogs could never get closer than 10 points and the Utes sank 12-of-14 free throws in the final two minutes to ice the win.When asked later why TCU didn’t press throughout the game like it did at the end, TCU coach Jeff Mittie said, “We were supposed to. But we were never able to play with the energy in the first half that we wanted to.”Mittie said his team’s poor shooting, a season-low 29.3 percent, was also a factor.”If the ball goes in the basket, you get to set your defense,” he said. “If you’re missing shots, you’re constantly on your heels. We never got in the game in the style we needed.”UTE NOTES: This marks the sixth time Utah has made the MWC finals. … Earlier this year, the Utes lost twice to TCU — 62-41 at Fort Worth and 105-96 in a four-overtime classic at Salt Lake City when Whipple scored a MWC-record 45 points. … In the two previous games with San Diego State, Utah won 73-55 at home and 51-42 in San Diego.e-mail: [email protected] Relatedlast_img