Elaine Elliott insists there's really nothing special about her 25th season opener as head coach of the Utah's women's basketball program.

The milestone isn't all that important to her.

"Not at this point," she said. "We'll see how it goes. I'll tell you if it was memorable."

The Utes open the season tonight at 7 in the Huntsman Center against UC Irvine. They'll host nationally ranked Stanford on Sunday.

"The kids are excited — there's no doubt," Elliott said. "They've been looking forward to the season."

After winning a pair of lopsided exhibition games, Utah is eager to play games that count. Victories over Montana-Western (95-36) and Fort Lewis (78-32) gave Elliott and her staff a good idea of where the team stands.

"We're not behind in any way. I think we're ahead," said Elliott, who explained that quite a bit of the system is in place.

And though it's still early and the Utes aren't completely sharp, they do have film to study in their quest to improve their execution.

Several players stood out in the exhibition wins. Senior point guard Leilani Mitchell averaged a double-double (points, assists), while sophomore Kalee Whipple took top scoring honors with 20.5 points per game.

Other notable performances were logged by Morgan Warburton (14.5 ppg), Jessica Perry (7.0 rpg) and Katie King (11.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

With only nine healthy players on the roster, Deanne Stevenson, Halie Sawyer, Cydney Knight and Hennasea Tokumura will also be in the mix.

"It is pretty clear and concise — in terms of knowing these kids and what their role is — each of them has one," Elliott said of her team. "I guess that's the good part for them. It entails playing as compared to roles that don't have anything to do with getting on the court."

"That's always a good situation for kids. They get the opportunity to play," she continued. "They work hard and it's nice for them."


Utah basketball opener

UC Irvine (0-1) at Utah (1-0)

Huntsman Center

Today, 7 p.m.

TV: None; Radio: 1280AM


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