Women face Utes in opener

Nick Esposito


The women’s basketball team (19-13, 10-6 Big East) is back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004. The Wildcats are a No. 8 seed in the Raleigh region and they will do battle with the No. 9-seeded Utes of Utah. The two teams will square off for the first time in College Park, Md., at noon on March 22.

Utah earned the automatic bid after they won the Mountain West Conference for the third time this decade. The Utes are in the tournament for the fourth time in the last five seasons. They come into the game armed with a (22-9, 13-3 Mountain West) record.


The Utes are a team that is not blessed with a deep bench. Because of this unfortunate affliction, they had to adapt their game to play mistake, foul-free defense. They play extremely well on the defensive side of the ball, commonly shutting down the opponent’s star player. The starting five players monopolize most of the playing time in the team’s attempt to control the tempo of the game.


Utah primarily concentrates on its speed and quickness to beat its opponents. It relies heavily on its ability to shoot the 3-pointers. During a tough four game skid in the middle of the season, the Utes’ could not hit from behind the arc. They then get overwhelmed by a team that has a capable presence down low and they exchange buckets for 3-point attempts. This is a problem that the Utes seemed to have fixed on their way to another conference title but if they go cold they go cold.


The potent Utah offense is led by their sensational senior guard, Morgan Warburton. Warburton was named Mountain West Conference Most Valuable Player. She is a three-year starter for the Utes and has reached double figures for a MWC record 63-straight games. She leads her conference at an impressive 18.7 points per game while shooting lights out from the line; she currently possesses the fourth-highest free throw percentage in the country at 90 percent.

Her greatest asset is her ability to involve her teammates in the offense. She is complimented well by the 6-foot forward Kalee Whipple. Whipple was named to the first team All Mountain West. With a speedy Warburton on the perimeter and a dominant Whipple inside gives the Utes a very dangerous tandem.


One of the more intriguing matchups may be on the sidelines. The Big East Co-Coach of the Year Harry Perretta will match wits with Utah Head Coach Elaine Elliott. Perretta is going to have to try to slow the game down, otherwise a few quick 3-pointers by Warburton and the game could get out of hand.

Elliott needs to capitalize on the fact that her team has been to the tournament before. The veteran leadership could carry the Utes along way in this game.

The Wildcats have had marquee wins on the big stage this season against ranked teams. It will come down to who will dictate play early.