Whipple, Warburton lead Utah past Villanova 60-30

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP)—Sent clear across the country to play in the NCAA tournament, Kalee Whipple and Utah extended their stay with some dominating defense.

Whipple contributed 15 points and eight rebounds, all the while guarding Villanova star Laura Kurz, and the Utes overwhelmed the poor-shooting Wildcats 60-30 Sunday in a first-round game of the Raleigh Regional.

Villanova shot 11-for-58 (19 percent) for the game, including 4-for-29 on 3-pointers (14 percent). Its point total was the third-lowest in women’s tournament history.

“They just obviously had some struggles,” Utah coach Elaine Elliott said, “putting the ball in the hole.”

Especially from beyond the arc.

“Our goal defensively was to take away the 3-pointer, because that’s what I think was going to win the game for them,” said Whipple, who also had three blocks and three assists.

Morgan Warburton—like Kurz, a finalist for the Naismith Trophy as national player of the year—scored 14 for ninth-seeded Utah (23-9).

The Utes will play No. 1-seeded Maryland on its home court Tuesday in the second round. Maryland beat No. 16 Dartmouth 82-53.

Katie King scored 18 points for Utah, which lost to eventual champion Maryland in the NCAA round of eight in 2006.

Kurz led eighth-seeded Villanova (19-14) with 11 points, but she went 0-for-7 on 3s. It was the second consecutive rough outing for the senior, who went scoreless in a Big East tournament semifinal loss to top-ranked Connecticut.

“You never want to go out this way,” said Kurz, wiping away tears. “My last two games, I could not put the ball in the basket, whatsoever.”

She wasn’t alone.

Utah held Villanova without a point for about 4 minutes at the start, then almost 5 minutes to close the first half. When Villanova missed its first 10 shots to open the second half, Utah pulled away.

The record for fewest points in a women’s NCAA tournament game is the 27 scored by Southern in a loss to Duke in 2006. Long Island put up 29 against UConn in 2001.

“Our biggest problem has always been, all year, we don’t score the ball,” Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. “We have games where we just don’t make any shots.”

Villanova was making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2004, and Perretta was worried how his players would react.

“Signs of nervousness to me are being frozen, you know, and in the first three possessions, we were literally frozen to the floor,” he said. “I was extremely nervous at that point.”

The Utes scored the game’s first 10 points and led 26-16 at halftime. In the second half, that gap quickly widened.

Kurz was Villanova’s only player to make more than one field goal over the first 20 minutes, scoring eight points. But she went 1-for-10 after halftime, hounded by Whipple.

“She’s a tough player,” Whipple said. “She wasn’t easy to guard at all.”

Whipple, meanwhile, went 5-for-6, including 3-for-3 on 3s, en route to 13 first-half points.

When she hit a 3 to put Utah ahead 21-14, she wheeled and let out a yell. Then she got right back to work at the defensive end, holding off the bigger Kurz on the low post.

Moments later, Whipple blocked Lisa Karcic’s shot at one end, then assisted on King’s layup at the other.

Whipple and the rest of the Mountain West Conference tournament champions were disappointed to learn they would be playing so far from home this time. The lengthy trip and the rough economy meant only one player’s parent made the trek to watch in person.

“The kids handled it very well,” Elliott said. “I thought they would.”

Updated Sunday, Mar 22, 2009

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Utah
Kalee Whipple Kalee Whipple
5-7,  15 Pts
8 Rebs, 3 Assists
 Villanova
Laura Kurz Laura Kurz
5-19,  11 Pts
5 Rebs, 2 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists

NCAA Tournament Scoreboard

Sunday, Mar 22