DENVER — Kim Smith made an early bid for the Mountain West Conference Tournament MVP with a dominating performance in Utah's convincing 68-51 victory over San Diego State Wednesday in the Pespi Center.

Smith scored early and late against the Aztecs, picking up a double-double that included making 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Smith finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds in 37 minutes. She also made three of her four 3-point tries and added a steal and blocked shot.

With the win, Utah improves to 23-6 and advances to the semifinals Friday.

"Not bad, eh?" Utah coach Elaine Elliott said of the 6-foot-1 sophomore from British Columbia. "She is just a relentless player. She's going to go get her boards, she scores in different ways. Anybody who can get to the post, can slash and hit the three, get a put-back and get to the line, well, that's a lot of ways to hurt you and that's what makes her so special."

The Utes led 29-20 at the half, thanks largely to a stifling defense that allowed the Aztecs just one offensive rebound. SDSU made only seven of their 20 shots during the first 20 minutes of play. On three consecutive possessions, Utah forced the Aztecs to gobble up the shot clock to the buzzer in the first half.

Smith ignited Utah early, canning her first two attempts from beyond the arc. Both Smith and Carley Marshall had eight points in the first 20 minutes to pace Utah's attack. In that span, Utah outrebounded the Aztecs 21-11.

The Aztecs made a run after intermission, cutting Utah's lead to 32-30, but Utah's dominance on the boards led to a quick recovery as Smith appeared unstoppable.

Smith scored nine straight points to end the game, lifting Utah to a 63-49 advantage before SDSU's Shona Thornburn buried a 3-pointer in the final minute.

The Utes finished with 41 rebounds to just 19 for the Aztecs, and the offensive board difference favored Utah 17-4. "That's what you have to do against a zone is get second shots," Elliott said.

Utah's 68 points was the most since last year's 83 against Air Force. Smith has eight double-doubles, two of which have come against SDSU this season.

"My shot was falling," Smith said. "And that was nice. Offensively, they played a zone, so you just had to cut to the gaps and my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball."

Carley and Thornburn each scored 11 points and Kelsy Stireman and Thornburn both had five assists.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com