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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Everything was working in the first half for Utah against Minnesota, but it took a few defensive stops and a couple of key 3-point baskets before the Utes could claim a major road non-conference win.
Leilani Mitchell scored 19 points, and her 3-pointer with just over five minutes remaining helped put away the 66-54 win at Williams Arena.
"That's what we expected," said Mitchell, who saw the Utes' early 17-point lead dwindle to five late in the second half. "They came out and played hard in the second half, but we stepped up on defense and made some shots."
Mitchell got some help from Morgan Warburton, who scored 15 points and hit a long 3-pointer with 4:22 left that deflated Minnesota's final comeback effort.
The Utes (6-3) have had their ups and downs already this season, one year after winning 19 games and making it into the second round of the Women's NIT. Their four-game winning streak was stopped in a rough 62-45 loss at Southern California on Dec. 3, and a month ago the Utes lost to then-No. 5 Stanford 81-77 in double overtime.
"It's big for us," said Utah coach Elaine Elliott. "Close means a lot, but in the end, when the season's over, nobody cares. It's who did you beat, and who did you lose to. It matters in this business."
Utah shot 50 percent from the field (24-for-48), while the Gophers (8-3) lost at home for the first time this season.
Leslie Knight had a season-high 17 points to lead the Gophers. Emily Fox, who came into the game as Minnesota's leading scorer at 17.6 points per game, made just five of 18 shots from the field and finished with 14 points.
Mitchell's play as Utah's point guard kept the Gophers off-balance all game. She finished with eight assists.
"We knew that she was the X-factor on the team, and we needed really to try to isolate her," said Minnesota coach Pam Borton of Mitchell, who is playing her senior year at Utah after three seasons at Idaho. "She really came up and made some big plays."
Kailee Whipple added 13 points for the Utes.
Utah came out on fire and never trailed in the game. They made eight of their first ten shots from the floor, with Katie King's jump shot giving the Utes a 19-10 lead. Fox hit a 3-pointer for the Gophers, but Cydney Knight and Warburton answered with consecutive baskets to keep Utah in control.
The lead bulged to 34-17 on a 3-pointer by Whipple and a wide-open layup by Jessica Perry. Fox then spurred an 11-0 run with a pair of baskets and two free throws to get the Gophers back into the game.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-12-08-07 1426MST