Facebook Twitter

Utah Utes women’s basketball: Utes crush Villanova in NCAA opener

SHARE Utah Utes women’s basketball: Utes crush Villanova in NCAA opener

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — After Villanova missed several inside shots during one possession, Wildcats coach Harry Perretta just shook his head early in the second half.

A few minutes later, after leading scorer Laura Kurz missed a layup, he rubbed his eyes with his hands and stared down at the floor.

It was one of those days for the Wildcats, who were beaten at their own game Sunday by Utah in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Comcast Center.

The No. 9 seed Utes, who took an early 10-0 lead, won 60-30 over No. 8 seed Villanova in the first meeting between the two schools. Utah made its first four shots from 3-point range and the 30 points allowed was the lowest by any Utes opponent in NCAA history.

"I just felt confident at the beginning," said Kalee Whipple, who made her first three shots from long range and finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists for Utah. "If I was open I was going to take the shot."

Katie King had a game-high 18 points and six rebounds for the Utes, Morgan Warburton had 15 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three assists and Halie Sawyer had six points and 10 rebounds.

Utah (23-9) will meet top seed Maryland, the ACC champions, on the Terps home court Tuesday for a chance to advance to the Raleigh regional. Maryland beat Dartmouth in the second game Sunday afternoon before a sea of red-clad home fans.

Utah, meanwhile, used a balanced scoring attack, strong rebounding and recognition on defense that the Wildcats live or die by the 3-point shot. On Sunday, before just a couple dozen Utah fans, Villanova died.

The 'Cats missed 31 of their first 38 shots from the field, including 15-of-17 from 3-point range.

Villanova, in its worst offensive outing of the season, had taken 820 shots from long range to lead the Big East prior to Sunday's game.

Overall it was 11 of 58 (19 percent) from the field and 4 of 29 from long range.

"Our goal on defense was to take away the 3-pointer and make them a driving team," Whipple said. "I think we did pretty well with that."

"We knew we had to get a hand in their face," Utah reserve guard Josi McDermott, who had four rebounds in 18 minutes, said of defending the 3-pointer.

Utah also held Kurz, who was averaging 17.6 points per game, to just three points in the second half on one of 10 shots from the field. Kurz finished with 11 points.

"She is a tough player," Whipple said. "I had faith in my teammates if I needed help (on Kurz) they would be there."

Utah also dominated the boards, 45-26.

There is always a big emphasis with rebounds," King said. "It just got in our heads we had to rebound every single time."

Warburton hit a three-pointer to give the Utes a 10-0 lead with 16:43 left in the first half.

The Wildcats, who missed their first six shots from the field, did not score until Heather Scanlon made a 3-pointer with 16:07 left in the first half.

But Whipple responded with a basket and King scored to give the Utes a 14-3 lead before the first media timeout at 14:46.

The Wildcats cut the lead to 16-14, but Utah took a 26-16 lead just before halftime on a basket by King.

Utah took a 33-17 lead after a basket and free throw by Warburton early in the second half and gradually pulled away in the rout.

"This team has been amazing all year," Utah head coach Elaine Elliott said. "It was a great reward for them."

Said Perrett, the Villanova coach: "It just goes to show you that if you make a mistake against them they're going to put the ball in the basket. When they made a mistake against us, we didn't put the ball in the basket. We didn't make them pay for that."

Utah players and coaches were asked after Sunday's win over Villanova about the fairness of playing against top seed Maryland on the Terps homecourt in the second round on Tuesday.

Maryland did come through later in the day with a win over No. 16 seed Dartmouth.

"There is a saying that home games are nothing unless you are the home team on your homecourt," Elliott said. "That is real, that is the reality. We have won other games where the advantage was not ours, so we will try and draw on that."

"We don't really think about that," Whipple said. "We are just happy to be here."

Said Morgan Warburton, the Mountain West player of the year: "If we believe in each other we can get it done."