Women In Title Game With Win Over Utes

Dani Wright led all scores with 14 points in the MWC semifinal win over Utea. Wright was named MWC Co-Player of the Year. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

LAS -- The BYU women's basketball team picked up a crucial 55-49 win over in-state rival Utah Friday in the MWC Tournament semifinals, battling through a tough second-half comeback bid by the Utes to advance to the finals. At 23-8, the Cougars will be playing in their fifth MWC Tournament Championship game on Saturday.

"It was a great game," said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. "Utah is a really good team. I'm really happy with these guys because being down like that and bouncing back is not real easy. I think they showed the character of this team and why we've been successful this year."

Dani Wright led the Cougars with 14 points while Mallary Gillespie added 13 and Melinda Johnsen posted 12 points. Gillespie also came just one rebound short of her first double-double of the season with nine rebounds. Jennie Keele dished out five assists.

The two teams battled it out to begin the game with neither able to gain more than a one possession advantage. Dani Wright, playing on a sprained ankle she suffered in Wednesday's quarterfinal game, broke the 1,000-point career scoring mark with a layin with 13:27 left in the half to give BYU a 10-8 lead. The bucket seemed to spark the Cougars, who quickly went up 19-11 on the strength of an 11-3 run.

BYU kept pushing after a Utah bucket, extending the lead to 10 points at 23-13 and forcing a Ute timeout at the 4:49 mark. However, the Cougars' sharp play on both sides of the floor continued as the lead went to 13 points at 28-15.

But just when it looked like BYU would run away with it, the nature of the rivalry became evident as the Utes scored seven straight points while the Cougars missed the front end of two one-and-one opportunities to tighten the score at 28-22. Utah then rebounded a missed Cougar shot and came downcourt looking to score the last bucket of the half, but a steal and a layin by Ashley Cheesman on the other end reversed the Utes' fortunes and gave BYU a 30-22 halftime lead.

Lauren Riley got the Cougars going in the second half with a bucket on the opening possession to once again push the lead to 10 points at 32-22. The Utes came storming back, however, with a 10-0 run capped by a three-pointer from Kalee Whipple to tie things up at 32-32. BYU's Melinda Johnsen stopped the bleeding with a jumper at the 15:41 mark, but the Ute fans made themselves heard as both sides of the crowd sensed the momentum shift.

Two stellar defensive plays, the first a one-on-one stop by Mallary Gillespie and the second a block by Riley, kept the score knotted, but the Cougars couldn't get it done on the other end of the floor as they went missed four shots and recorded three turnovers. Utah didn't fare much better, but Heidi Carlsen finally completed the Ute comeback with a jumper in the lane to give Utah a 36-34 lead. After getting another defensive stop, a three-pointer put the Utes up 39-34 and forced Judkins to call timeout at the 10:47 mark.

Gillespie finally ended a 5:33 BYU scoring drought with two free throws on the next Cougar possession but BYU didn't score from the field for another three minutes on a layin from Wright, cutting the Utah lead to 41-38 with 6:57 left to play. Wright made it two in a row on the next BYU possession and then scored again on the Cougars' next trip, a 6-0 personal run to retake the lead at 42-41 and prompt a huge reaction from the BYU faithful in attendance. Jennie Keele then made it an 8-0 Cougar run with a pair of free throw makes.

As the two teams battled it out down the stretch, Johnsen benefited from two lucky bounces for back-to-back scores to put BYU ahead 49-45 with just over three minutes to play. After a Utah score cut the lead to just two points, BYU sealed the deal, scoring six of the last eight points to record the 55-49 win.

The Cougars will play New Mexico who advanced by defeating Wyoming in the other semifinal game on Friday.

Official Basketball Box Score

Utah vs BYU

03-09-07 2:30 p.m. at Thomas & Mack Center - Las Vegas, Nev.

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VISITORS: Utah 18-13

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS

## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN

02 WHIPPLE, Kalee...... f 3-8 1-3 5-5 1 7 8 4 12 0 1 0 0 30

32 FILIPE, Joh-Teena... f 4-13 2-5 0-0 0 3 3 2 10 0 2 1 0 29

03 ULSAKER, Brette..... g 0-2 0-0 0-0 2 1 3 3 0 2 2 0 0 21

05 CARLSEN, Heidi...... g 3-8 2-4 0-0 0 3 3 4 8 2 1 0 2 32

15 WARBURTON, Morgan... g 2-8 1-3 4-4 1 8 9 1 9 3 3 1 1 38

12 MURPHY, Shauna...... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1

22 SAWYER, Halie....... 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 4

33 WARNER, Marie....... 3-8 0-2 4-4 0 1 1 2 10 0 2 0 1 27

45 PERRY, Jessica...... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 2 2 0 1 3 0 1 18

TEAM................ 1 1

Totals.............. 15-48 6-17 13-13 5 26 31 18 49 8 14 2 5 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 7-22 31.8% 2nd Half: 8-26 30.8% Game: 31.3% DEADB

3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 3-8 37.5% 2nd Half: 3-9 33.3% Game: 35.3% REBS

F Throw % 1st Half: 5-5 100 % 2nd Half: 8-8 100 % Game: 100 % 0,1

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HOME TEAM: BYU 23-8

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS

## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN

45 WRIGHT, Dani........ c 6-11 0-1 2-4 2 4 6 4 14 0 2 1 0 34

52 RILEY, Lauren....... c 1-3 0-0 0-2 1 1 2 3 2 0 2 1 1 16

15 KEELE, Jennie....... g 1-8 0-4 4-4 1 6 7 2 6 5 0 1 1 34

30 GILLESPIE, Mallary.. g 3-8 1-5 6-6 2 7 9 3 13 3 3 1 1 39

35 JOHNSEN, Melinda.... g 5-10 2-7 0-2 0 4 4 1 12 3 2 1 3 37

05 CHEESMAN, Ashley.... 2-3 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 0 4 0 3 0 0 10

32 SLADE, Shawnee...... 2-5 0-0 0-1 0 2 2 0 4 2 0 0 0 30

TEAM................ 1 1

Totals.............. 20-48 3-17 12-19 6 26 32 13 55 13 12 5 6 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 12-24 50.0% 2nd Half: 8-24 33.3% Game: 41.7% DEADB

3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-8 25.0% 2nd Half: 1-9 11.1% Game: 17.6% REBS

F Throw % 1st Half: 4-7 57.1% 2nd Half: 8-12 66.7% Game: 63.2% 2,2

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Officials: Clarke Stevens, Randy Campbell, Connie Pardue

Technical fouls: Utah-None. BYU-None.

Attendance: 5542

Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total

Utah.......................... 22 27 - 49

BYU........................... 30 25 - 55

ID-532345

Tags: Results