An overlooked aspect of this year's new and improved Utah women's basketball team has been a tough, stingy defense. The Utes have been putting the clamps on opponents all season, which they did again Saturday afternoon in a 61-46 victory over Kansas State.

Utah held the Wildcats to only 13 first-half points and just 30.9 shooting for the game. And this was against a good Kansas State team that came to the Huntsman Center with a 5-2 record.The victory improved the Utes' season mark to 6-1 as they head to the northwest for games against Oregon State Monday and Portland Tuesday.

"The key was that we defended exceptionally well," said Utah coach Elaine Elliott. "We knew we were going to have to play good defense this year, but we're farther along than I thought we would be at this point."

Once again it was Utah's new players who led the way. Freshman Julie Krommehnoek hit her average with 17 points, while JC transfer Amber McEwen scored 10 and freshman Alli Bills 8 points along with 4 steals. One of the "veterans," senior Andrea Herold, scored 14 points, including 9 of 10 from the foul line after coming into the game with a 35 percent average from the line.

Both teams struggled offensively in the first half when Utah managed a 19-13 lead, aided by two baskets by Krommenhoek in the final 26 seconds. In fact, Krommenhoek outscored the entire Wildcat team 14-13 in the opening half.

Elliott said she wasn't overly concerned about her team's lack of offense in the first half.

"I told the team if they played defense like that in the second half, we'd go home with a win," she said.

A key stretch of the second half came with Utah leading 28-24 and just under 13 minutes remaining. Herold made a 3-pointer and was fouled after the shot, giving the Utes the ball out of bounds. Then Bills sank a 3-pointer to give the Utes what turned out to be a 6-point play. Krommenhoek added another trey to make it 37-24 and the lead was in double digits for good.

"We set some nice screens which got us open for threes," said Elliott.

Kansas State was led by Shanele Stires and Brit Jacobson with 18 points apiece. Jacobson, a freshman from Alaska, also pulled down 15 rebounds, despite being only 5-foot-7.

Saturday's game marked the first of five Saturday home games which will begin at 3 p.m. After the Oregon trip, the Utes return home to play Weber State Thursday night at the Huntsman Center.