Utes Cruise Past Cowgirls, Grab MWC Title

After scrambling to squeak out a win over Wyoming earlier this season, the Utes coasted to a far less nerve-racking finish on Sunday…

There was no late-game charge, no last-second shot and no question about who the cream of the Mountain West Conference has been this season.

In their final opportunity to live up to a preseason No. 1 league ranking, the Cowgirls got dumped.

Leilani Mitchell scored 19 points and handed out 13 assists to lead No. 16 Utah to a 67-53 victory over No. 24 Wyoming on Sunday in Salt Lake City.

The last time the two teams faced each other, Wyoming put together a 15-6 run in the final minutes to take a two-point lead, and Utah needed a timely offensive rebound and a last-second 3-pointer from Morgan Warburton to pull out a 60-59 victory.

But as the clock wound down on Sunday's contest, the Utes' stars were already cheering from the bench, ready to celebrate Utah's first regular-season conference title since the 2003-04 season.

"People picked us to finish fifth in the conference this year," Warburton told the Associated Press. "But we didn't give up. We worked real hard in the summer and it paid off."

Jodi Bolerjack hit four first-half 3-pointers for the Cowgirls on Sunday, but Mitchell dished out 10 assists in the first half to help the Utes build a 32-26 lead at the break. Wyoming pulled within five points three different times in the second half, but Mitchell scored four points during a 9-0 Utah run that pushed the Utes' advantage to 48-34 with 11:01 remaining.

After going nearly five minutes without a field goal in the second half, the Cowgirls were able to get things going offensively down the stretch, but Mitchell hit two 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the final 7:30 to seal the win.

With the loss, Wyoming fell to 23-5 overall and 11-4 in Mountain West Conference play, including two losses to Utah this season. The Utes stayed perfect in league play with a 14-0 mark, and they improved their overall record to 25-3. Utah has now won 20 straight games.

"Utah is a very talented team," said Wyoming head coach Joe Legerski. "I was with some very good teams with (Utah head coach) Elaine (Elliott), and this one does not take a back seat to any of the others. They have a tremendous point guard in Mitchell, along with (Morgan) Warburton and (Kalee) Whipple."

Whipple finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for Utah, and Warburton had 12 points and eight boards.

Wyoming was led by Bolerjack with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting, but she only scored three points in the second half. Aubrey Vandiver came off the bench to chip in 12 points for Wyoming, and Hanna Zavecz scored 11 points, dished out four assists and pulled down seven rebounds. The Cowgirls got just three points from their second-leading scorer Jusytna Podziemska, however, and Zavecz shot just 3-of-12 from the field in 39 minutes of play.

"This is a very difficult place to play," Legerski said. "I also thought we didn't do a good job rebounding the ball, and we really settled in shooting the basketball from the perimeter. We are usually more aggressive at going to the basket, but tonight we were content to shoot the ball from the perimeter."

Utah outrebounded Wyoming 36-23 in the game, and the Utes also posted 10 more assists than the Cowgirls.

Wyoming will finish out the regular season Wednesday against BYU in Laramie.

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