DENVER — The Utah women's basketball team hasn't made it to the Mountain West Conference tournament finals since 2000 when it defeated BYU for the title. The past three years, even in 2001, the year they made it to the NCAA Sweet 16, the Utes have fallen in the MWC semifinals or quarterfinals.

That should be motivation enough for the Utes (23-6) when they take on UNLV (22-6) today in the semifinals at 2:30 p.m. at the Pepsi Center.

But there's something else. The Utes are still smarting from last week's 68-60 overtime loss to the Rebels at the Huntsman Center, which kept the Utes from winning an outright MWC title and left them in a tie with New Mexico and the No. 2 seed in the tourney.

"We're looking forward to this game," said Ute coach Elaine Elliott.

"We like the emotional edge that playing someone that recently beat you, gives a team."

The Utes are led by MWC Player of the Year Kim Smith, who had 28 points and 11 rebounds in a 68-51 win over San Diego State in Wednesday's first round and sophomore guard Shona Thorburn who is second on the team in scoring and rebounding and first in assists.

The Rebels are led by forward Sherry McCracklin, an all-MWC selection who led the league with 12 double-doubles this year and RanDee Henry, who led the league in scoring with a 17.8 average.

The winner of today's game will face the winner of the Wyoming-New Mexico game Saturday at 4 p.m. The Wyoming-UNM game will be played at noon today.

Utes on the air

UNLV (22-6) vs.

Utah (23-6)

Today, 2:30 p.m., at Pepsi Center in Denver

TV: Ch. 9

Radio: KALL 700AM


E-mail: sor@desnews.com