Utah continued to distance itself from an 0-2 start in Mountain West Conference play. Kim Smith scored 27 points and Julie Larsen added 19 as the Utes doubled up Air Force 90-45 in the Huntsman Center.

"We just keep improving. That's what we have to do," Smith said. "We're starting to get on a roll now."

The Utes, who improved to 12-4 overall and 3-2 in the MWC, have outscored the opposition 242-138 in their win streak.

Smith, a three-time conference player of the year, had her best shooting night of the season. She was 10-of-11 from the field.

"This is a nice sign because she can shoot the basketball and she certainly did tonight," said Utah coach Elaine Elliott, whose team shot 62.5 percent and connected on 10 3-pointers.

Both Smith and Larsen were perfect in three attempts from long range.

"I think we were just getting wide open shots. That's what it amounted to," said Larsen, who converted on a pair of four-point plays and was 6-of-6 from the floor. "I think we just started pressuring the ball better — getting steals and more fast-break opportunities."

Utah forced 17 turnovers and stole the ball 15 times.

"I think our defense just picked up," Smith said.

Trailing 13-12 with just under 11 minutes remaining in the first half, Utah took the lead for good on a pair of free throws by Shona Thorburn. The shots, which marked the sixth lead change in the game, ignited a 39-6 run that gave the Utes a 51-19 lead at halftime.

Smith led the way with 17 points at the break, while Larsen had 13.

Utah's defense also made significant contributions. The Utes racked up 12 steals in the opening half and held the Falcons scoreless for stretches of 5:21 and 4:45.

"It started on the defensive end," Elliott said. "We put some nice pressure on them and it got us running, got us rolling."

Utah opened the second half with another spurt. It expanded the game-deciding run to 78-32 and increased the Utes' lead to 45 points by game's end.

"Things always feel good when you hit shots," said Elliott, who picked up her 475th career coaching victory. "No doubt about it."

Morgan Warburton and Shona Thorburn scored 14 and 10 points, respectively, to aid the cause.

Air Force (10-6, 1-4) had no players in double figures.

The Utes (11-4) now hit the road for games at UNLV Saturday and TCU a week later. Their next date in the Huntsman Center is Feb. 2 against Wyoming.


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com