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U.'s sweet step to the Sweet 16

Talk about a sweet milestone. The University of Utah women's basketball team's 78-69 defeat of the University of Iowa elevated the Utes to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time ever. The Utes move on to play Notre Dame at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Saturday.

While the Utes will have a steep challenge against the Irish, ranked No. 1 most of the season, the team has cause to be optimistic. Not only has the U. advanced in the NCAA tournament, the team won an unprecedented 14 conference games without a loss. In fact, this team has only experienced three losses all season.

Unlike many men's teams that heavily rely on the play of two or three key players, Coach Elaine Elliott's Utes play as a well-oiled machine — everyone's contributions count. As Elliott puts its, "They are such a team in every letter of that word."

Credit Elliott, whose teams have a 373-151 all-time record. Her teams have nine NCAA tournament appearances to their credit, six regular season titles, three divisional championships and five league tournament titles. Her teams have won 20 or more games in each of seven straight years.

Credit also the selfless young women who make up the 2000-2001 team. While some basketball fans watch the game for the fast breaks and slam dunks, the Utes display perfectly executed fundamentals. Their passes are crisp, they hustle for rebounds and they work for the best shot. They play punishing defense, having held their opponents to an average of 49.7 points per game, which led the nation this season.

That recipe for success has landed the Utes in the Sweet 16. If there are any regrets, it's that so few Utahns have witnessed the Utes' spectacular season. For basketball purists, there is perhaps no better game than women's basketball.

This page wishes the Utes well, congratulates them on their unparalleled success and thanks them for their exquisite example of teamwork.