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Ute women put `funeral' on hold, top Rice

There are two things that can draw crowds in droves: one, a winning team in any sport, and two, a funeral.

So what were the Utes supposed to think when the second largest crowd of the year (2,027) showed up for their game against Rice Saturday afternoon?They were losers of three straight, so that killed the winning team theory. With the way Utah has played of late, death seemed to be right around the corner. A loss would be four in a row, and almost deadly to post-season chances.

That seemed to be what the crowd was there for - to pay its last respects to the Ute women, who have been dying right before our everyone's eyes lately.

But, "We're not dead yet," said Julie Krom-men-hoek.

In the game's final 27 minutes the Utes were as alive as ever, erasing 14-point deficit to win 74-66.

The funeral will have to wait.

Angie Thill and Kristi Rose each took a turn dominating the Owls, combining for 33 points, while Krommenhoek finished with 13.

Thill scored 16 of her 18 points in the second half, including eight in a row that ballooned the Ute lead to 14 at one point.

"We really came alive after the first 15 minutes," said Ute coach Elaine Elliott. "I was happy with the effort."

With the way the game started though, it seemed the Utes were digging their own graves and getting ready to jump in. Rice cruised to a 25-11 lead behind the strong inside play of Kirra Jordan, who had 12 points in the first 12 minutes.

Offensively, Utah was passing the ball around like famous Ute alum - Scott Mitchell - to the wrong team. Utah had 13 turnovers in the first 13 minutes.

"Their defense got to us," said Elliott. "But we changed some things and got rolling."

What Utah did is start pounding the ball in to the paint. Rose, who's been under much scrutiny lately by Elliott, became the focus of the Ute offense. And she responded, scoring 12 points in the final seven minutes of the half, rallying the Utes to a 30-29 halftime lead.

"She stepped up big and was really physical," said teammate Thill. "They couldn't handle her."

Krommenhoek helped put the Owls away in the second by draining three 3-pointers. She only took six shots, but made four - all were 3s.

"We came out so excited to play it hurt," said Krommenhoek. "But once we settled down and got on the same page we were fine."

Utah is now 17-3, but remained 7-3 in the WAC because as a crossover game, the win does not effect its WAC record. Rice drops to 14-7.