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BYU women want NCAAs

Though it has been a disappointing season filled with challenges, BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins still believes an NCAA Tournament berth is possible for his team.

The Cougars (16-9, 7-5), who were the preseason favorites to win the Mountain West Conference title, play their final two league games, starting with a visit to last-place Air Force on Thursday (7 p.m.). On Saturday (2 p.m.), BYU takes on New Mexico at The Pit.

The Cougars are hoping to establish momentum before entering next week's MWC Tournament in Las Vegas.

"We've had a hard year," Judkins said. "If we can take care of business and win these two games, we'll finish in second place. We're not overlooking Air Force, but Saturday is a big game for us. It will decide who finishes in second place."

BYU is currently in a second-place tie with New Mexico (17-8, 7-5), which hosts Utah on Thursday.

A No. 2 seed in the tournament would mean avoiding league-champion Utah until the title game.

Judkins says his team needs to sweep this week's road swing to merit NCAA Tournament at-large consideration — that is, if BYU is unable to win the conference tournament and earn an automatic NCAA bid, like it did a year ago.

"We may have to win two games in the (conference) tournament, to get in," he said. "But with the schedule we've played, we have a good shot at getting into the NCAAs."

BYU is coming off of a 71-66 loss at Utah last Saturday. The Cougars fell behind 20 points early, then spent the rest of the game whittling away at that deficit. They closed the gap to three points with less than two minutes remaining, but couldn't overtake the Utes.

"We played well against Utah," Judkins said. "We have to start off well this week and stay focused."


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com