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SALT LAKE CITY - The University of Utah women's basketball team overcame a 10-point second half deficit to defeat Montana 78-70 in a first-round Women's National Invitation Tournament contest Wednesday night at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
Utah (19-13) trailed 50-40 with 15:51 remaining in the second half. With less than 12 minutes left in the game, the Utes still trailed by eight, 57-49. But for the next six minutes, it was all Utah. The Utes went on a 13-0 run to take a five-point advantage.
Kalee Whipple (Fr., Hiko, Nev.) sparked the spurt with a jumper in the paint. Then Marie Warner (Jr., Hamilton, Ont.) took over. Warner scored six of her 16 points during the outburst, including a pair of jumpers that tied the contest and gave Utah its first lead since the first three minutes of the game. Things were really going Utah's way when Heidi Carlsen (Sr., St. George, Utah) splashed home a 25-foot, desperation three-pointer as the shot clock expired to put her team on top 62-57.
Montana (27-4) rallied and put together an 8-2 spurt, including two three-pointers from Johanna Closson. The Lady Griz led 65-64 with 4:49 remaining on the second of those Closson triples. The lead then changed hands three times. Utah led by one with 3:20 remaining when Warner hit another huge shot. Warner drained a three-pointer, her only made trey in four attempts, from the left wing right in front of the Ute bench. That triple put the Utes up by four, 72-68.
Whipple pushed the advantage to six with a driving layup on Utah's next possession. Closson hit a 15-footer to pull Montana within four, 74-70, with 1:14 left to go. But the Lady Griz wouldn't score again. Morgan Warburton (Soph., Helper, Utah) and Brette Ulsaker (Fr., McPherson, Kan.) each hit a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds to preserve the eight-point victory.
Warburton tied with Closson for game-high scoring honors. Warburton tossed in 19 points, while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out seven assists. Warner was 7-of-14 from the field on the way toward her 16-point effort off the bench. Whipple tallied 13 and grabbed nine boards. Joh-Teena Filipe (Soph., Salt Lake City) had a team-high 10 rebounds for Utah.
Closson's 19 points led Montana. Tamara Guardipee scored 17 and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for a double-double. Britney Lohman tallied 11 off the bench for the Lady Griz. Montana's leading scorer - Mandy Morales, the 15th-ranked scorer in the nation - was held 10 points below her average. She scored 10 on 3-of-12 shooting after being harassed by Utah's Carlsen for much of the evening.
Utah held an 8-5 lead in the first two minutes. But Montana used a 12-2 run to grab a 17-10 lead. The Lady Griz led by as many as 12 with 3:38 remaining in the first half. The Utes pulled back within five at the intermission, 42-37.
Utah advances to the second round of the WNIT. They will face Illinois in Champaign, Ill. on Monday at 6 p.m. MDT.
(Information from the University of Utah)