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BYU’s Judkins, Utah’s Sitterud know rivalry

SHARE BYU’s Judkins, Utah’s Sitterud know rivalry

It's not like Jeff Judkins has never sat on the opponent's bench at the Huntsman Center since leaving the Ute basketball staff three years ago. He did that twice as director of basketball operations for BYU the past two years.

But today — for the first time — Judkins will be on the other side as a head coach when the former Ute player and coach brings his Cougars to the Huntsman Center to face Utah in a 3 p.m. contest televised on KJZZ-TV.

Both teams are 2-2 in Mountain West Conference play, as both have defeated Wyoming and Air Force and lost to Colorado State and New Mexico. Utah is 9-7 overall, while BYU is 11-6.

On the other side, the Utes have a player who grew up watching BYU basketball in Utah County and whose parents both attended BYU.

Lana Sitterud is a 5-foot-10 freshman from Lone Peak High School, where she was twice named the 4A Player of the Year. She is one of the top players off the bench for the Utes and the team's defensive specialist.

Examples like Judkins and Sitterud show how the lines in the Utah-BYU rivalry are often blurred.

Judkins will actually be sitting in a familiar seat, since the Utah women opponents' bench is the same one used by the Utah men. By now, Judkins — an all-conference player for Utah in 1976-78 and an assistant to Rick Majerus for 10 years — is used to wearing the blue and white. He knows he has a tough task to defeat the perennial champion Utes.

"The conference champion has got to go through Utah, and we've got to play our game to beat them," said Judkins. "They are the best man-to-man defensive team in our conference and have been for a lot of years. They also run the motion similar to us, and so they will be difficult to defend."

The Utes are led by four senior players — guard Erin Gibbons, center Lauren Beckman and forwards Lindsay Herbert and Katherine McColl. Gibbons, a 41 percent shooter from 3-point range, averages 15.8 points per game, while Beckman scores 14.7 points and leads the team in rebounds with an 8.9 per-game average.

Sitterud is usually the first player off the bench, and she's content to concentrate on defense and let the others handle the scoring.

"Defense is the strongest part of my game and something I've concentrated on, especially here since Utah is known for its defense," said Sitterud.

Even though she grew up watching BYU basketball, Sitterud started attending Utah camps in 9th grade and decided that's where she wanted to go after high school.

"I love the physical presence she brings," said Elliott. "She's a very physical player and very competitive. She's just a great kid with a great work ethic."

BYU is led by guards Erin Thorn (18.0 points per game) and Stacy Jensen (10.4), who Elliott calls "the best guard tandem in the league, bar none." Other starters are forwards Jennifer Leitner (11.6 ppg) and Lisa Osguthorpe (5.7) and center Chanell Rose (3.9).

E-mail: sor@desnews.com