After Saturday's 68-28 win over Colorado State, Utah coach Elaine Elliott said the Utes had a strong case to move into the national rankings.
"We feel pretty good about our success," she noted after Utah (18-3 overall, 7-0 in Mountain West Conference play) won its 13th consecutive game.
On Monday, Associated Press voters agreed. The Utes are 20th in this week's top 25 poll cracking the rankings for the first time since 2005-06 when they reached the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight.
"It's a nice acknowledgment of the kids' success," Elliott said. "Obviously, it's always beneficial to your program. ... It's exciting."
Last week's win over 15th-ranked Wyoming, she noted, helped get Utah in the poll. The triumph came in the midst of the Utes' longest winning streak in seven years. They haven't lost a game since a setback at USC on Dec. 3. The only other losses this season came in overtime to Marist at the Oahu Classic and in double-overtime at home to Stanford on Nov. 18.
"That win would have put us in at that point and time," Elliott explained to The Associated Press. "Instead, the loss got us noticed."
Paced by the play of scoring leaders Morgan Warburton, Leilani Mitchell and Kalee Whipple, the Utes have consistently competed this season. Their next test comes Wednesday at UNLV.
Can they keep their focus in the right place as a ranked team?
"I think we will. I really trust this team," Elliott said. "I think this team has committed to just working hard on their performances and has not been focused on the outside things that can't be controlled."
Following back-to-back losses to Utah and BYU, Wyoming fell from No, 15 to No. 22 in the latest rankings.MWC HONORS: Warburton was named co-Mountain West Conference Player of the Week after leading the Utes to victories over Wyoming and Colorado State. She scored 18 points in both contests and pulled down 12 rebounds in the win over the nationally ranked Cowgirls.