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Elizabeth Smart news spreads to tournament

LAS VEGAS — News of Elizabeth Smart's return home broke like wildfire through the media room at the Thomas & Mack Center shortly after the Utah-Air Force women's game ended Wednesday afternoon.

Reporters from Utah heard about the news and relayed it to Ute coach Elaine Elliott right in the middle of an interview.

One of the televisions in the media room was switched from a basketball game on ESPN to MSNBC, and several media members crowded around the TV for much of the afternoon, reveling in the joyous news.

NO VEGAS FAN: Every year Rick Majerus says it, but this will be the last time, at least for a few years — that UNLV has an unfair homecourt advantage at the Mountain West Conference tournament.

"UNLV is playing a home game," he said. "I would always favor UNLV (in the MWC tournament) because they have the home court. It's a giant advantage. They're not going to a site where they have to travel and go to a hotel and make adjustments."

Even if it was complaining by coaches like Majerus over UNLV's homecourt advantage that got the tournament moved in the first place, the Ute coach isn't thrilled about the tournament moving to Denver next year .

"Denver's a beautiful place, but nobody's excited about going to Denver in March," he said. "What are you going to do, go to a hockey game? At least it will be a neutral court for everybody."

WIN FOR THE AGES: Said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins after watching his Cougars' 66-64 overtime victory over hometown host UNLV in Wednesday's quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Women's Basketball Championships: "I lost a lot of lot of years of my life right there."

THORN ON ICE: In the postgame interview room, Erin Thorn was packing a large bag of ice on her arm — and no, it wasn't to cool off her hot shooting hand after scorching the net for 34 points and hitting the game-winning 3-pointer against UNLV.

The ice was on the elbow of her left (nonshooting) arm, and Thorn said it wasn't the result of one single injury incident in the game. "It was the whole game," she said. "I think I fell on it four times."

WHAT'S NEW FOR U.: Judkins said one difference in the Cougars since the last BYU-Utah matchup is that his team has resolved its roster uncertainties.

"We haven't counted on Jennifer Leitner," he said of the since-departed Cougar forward. "Now the team knows what they have."

FIRST OT: Wednesday's overtime contest between BYU and UNLV was the first extra-period game in the history of the MWC's women's tournament.

STREAKY THORN: After missing six 3-point attempts in regulation, Thorn's two treys in OT allowed the senior guard to extend her streak of games with at least one 3 — now at 36.