MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Utah coach Elaine Elliott breathed a big sigh of relief after her club snapped its four-game losing streak.
Her Utes did it in stunning fashion Sunday, bouncing back from an 18-point second-half deficit to defeat Marquette 79-76 in the WBCA Classic.
"That's always a mental challenge," Elliott said of ending a losing streak. "I'm obviously very proud of the effort in the second half. It was significantly better and it was nice to see."
Kalee Whipple tied her career high with a game-high 30 points for the Utes (2-4). The most important were a pair of free throws that put her team in front for good at 75-73 with 2:25 remaining.
With Marquette trailing 77-76, Georgie Jones missed a pair of free throws with 6.3 seconds left that could have tied or won the game, and Utah hung on for the victory.
The win was far from easy, as early on the Utes played poorly. They trailed 48-33 at the half and were down 51-33 early in the second period before starting their comeback, which saw them tie or lead the game several times.
Whipple said the difference in the second half was that Utah players decided not to lose again.
"It was just a choice," Whipple said. "We got in the locker room and we knew we weren't playing how we should. It was a choice we made that we weren't going to just play it out -- that we wanted to fight and dig it out."
The choice was spurred by Elliott's halftime advice that the team needed to play harder.
The Utah players took that message and went on to win. On the other side, Marquette players seemed to not to listen to coach Terri Mitchell, who told them they had to keep playing hard despite their big lead.
"We took a lead on Virginia and we lost, that doesn't mean anything. Basketball is two halves. They did not take that to heart," Mitchell said of her advice to keep the pressure on the Utes. "I was very disappointed. There was no urgency in the second half."
The loss was especially bothersome to Mitchell because Marquette (5-2) blew a halftime lead for the second straight night to fall to 1-2 in the tournament. No. 16 Virginia bounced back from a 14-point deficit Saturday night to beat Marquette 76-71.
Utah, also 1-2 in the tournament, got 19 points from Morgan Warburton and 14 from Katie King.
Krystal Ellis had 23 points to lead Marquette and Jones added 10.
Although Ellis said she did not think the Golden Eagles quit against the Utes, she realized they showed more intensity in the second half.
"I don't think they wanted to win more than we did but they played harder," she said.
In Sunday's first game in the Classic, Gonzaga upset No. 16 Virginia 69-62.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)