The University of Utah women's basketball team had a hard time getting up, over and around 6-foot-5 freshman Lisa Leslie of the University of Southern California.
Unfortunately, by the time it discovered a way it was too late and the USC ladies had a 63-52 win over the Utes in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Wednesday.The Utes will return home, now, while the Trojans travel to play No. 4 Long Beach State Saturday.
According to Utah Coach Elaine Elliott, the game was lost in the first half when Southern Cal threw up a zone defense with Leslie clogging the center. This was only the third time this year the Utes had to play against the zone and the result was 5-for-30 shooting, or 16.7 percent success, in the first half.
Elliott said it took her team that long to figure out the USCdefense. The answer was to shoot over it.
The Trojans led by 16 at the half (33-16), then stretched it out to 22 (47-25) with nearly 13 minutes left. That's when the Utes started hitting from the outside. Led by Kelly Shaheen's three three-point shots, the Utes were able to close to within seven (59-52) with under a minute to play.
Elliott admitted that the game didn't fall into the Utes' playing style. The zone hurt - "But I think if I had watched film on us, I would have zoned us, too, " she said. Also, she pointed out that her team is more comfortable playing the inside game.
"We'e not a perimeter-shooting team," she said.
Mistakes - 24 during the game - also proved costly to the Utes.
Leslie, among the top picks for freshman of the year honors, had 16 points and seven rebounds.
Joni Easterly added 13 points for the fifth-seeded Trojans (18-11).
Tanya Zachary scored 12 and Mikki Kane had 11 for 12th-seeded Utah (20-10).
Southern Cal used an 11-0 run to take a 21-6 lead with 6:34 left in the first half. The 17 first-half points scored by the Utes was the fourth-lowest ever in an NCAA first- or second-round game.
The Trojans had a 9-0 run early in the second half to take their biggest lead, 47-25, following a layup by Leslie.
This was the fourth time in eight years the Lady Utes have made it to the NCAA finals. They have yet to make it out of the first round.