Usually three points from your bench is never a good thing. Wednesday against New Mexico the three points weren't much, but they made a key difference in Utah's 60-57 victory.
Having been out-hustled, out-rebounded and basically out-played during the first 12 minutes of play, Utah gained a spark of energy when Elaine Elliott put in three bench players and told them we need to get something going. At this point, Utah faced its biggest deficit in 14 points and couldn't get a shot to fall, nor stop the Lobos shots from falling. Though the subs didn't provide much offense, they rebounded, forced turnovers, drew fouls and converted their first point when Cydney Knight knocked down a free throw with 7:22 left to play.
It wasn't the point that mattered, but rather the spark the group provided. That energy carried into complete momentum after Utah implemented the press and turned the tables. Utah sealed the victory with two free throws from sub Halie Sawyer, leaving the subs to start and cap a 21-5 run by Utah to close out the game.
"There was an energy on our side," said Utah coach Elaine Elliott. "They (New Mexico) weren't able to settle into running something that was comfortable for them."
New Mexico had dominated the game, holding Utah to one of its lowest first-half point totals of the season, while draining seven 3-pointers. The Lobos were also able to hold Utah's big three, Morgan Warburton, Leilani Mitchell and Kalee Whipple to a combined 7-of-21 shooting in the first half.
"We knew New Mexico was a good team and they weren't going to quit," said Whipple. "We needed some stops, some rebounds, something to change. Coach gave us some quiet time to do some mental preparation during halftime," said Whipple, who admitted the team wasn't focused.
Whipple finished with 18 on the night, 14 of which came in the second half. Warburton led all scorers with 19, while Mitchell totaled 12.
"Everything about that game was tough for us. They (New Mexico) made it tough we made it tough on ourselves," said Elliott. "We found a way to win down the stretch. That was an important test."
Things don't get any easier for Utah (15-3, 4-0 Mountain West Conference) as the team travels to TCU and No. 20 Wyoming before returning home on Feb. 2 against Colorado State.
SAN DIEGO STATE 62, BYU 39: At San Diego, for the first time in BYU head coach Jeff Judkins' career, the BYU women's basketball team lost to San Diego State, 62-39, its second conference loss in a row. Junior center Cassie King led the team in scoring with eight points, including her second 3-point bucket of the season. The Aztecs (10-7, 1-4) had 28 points in the paint compared to the Cougars' 14, 31 points off of turnovers to the Cougars' three, and 16 fast-break points to the Cougars' six. With the loss, the Cougars (8-8, 2-2) lo also fall to 0-5 when trailing at the half and 0-4 when their opponent shoots better then 50 percent from the field. The Cougars will head to the Pit in Albuquerque on Saturday at 2 p.m.