Colorado State shocks No. 12 Utah, 60-52
March 12, 2008
LAS VEGAS (AP) - The 12th-ranked Utah Utes would like to invoke the old Las Vegas tourism slogan "What happens here stays here."
They were shocked 60-52 by Colorado State on Wednesday night in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament, a 27-3 team losing to a 3-27 team.
"Rather it be now than the first round of the NCAAs when you know you're done for good," Utes forward Morgan Warburton said. "Maybe this is just a little bit of a wake-up call for us."
The Utes had gone 16-0 in league play and had won 22 straight.
Emily Neal scored 17 points and the ninth-seeded Rams (4-28) outmuscled and outhustled the heavily favored Utes (28-4), who shot 29 percent and were bruised and battered on the boards.
Colorado State was winless in conference play (0-16) and entered the tourney on a 20-game losing streak before beating UNLV in the play-in game Tuesday night, a prelude to one of the biggest upsets in college basketball this season.
All night, it was hard to tell which team had won 27 games and which had lost 27.
"Because that's how they practice," Rams coach Jen Warden said of her players' inspired performance.
Neal's two free throws with 4:40 remaining gave the Rams their biggest lead at 50-43, and Sara Hunter (12 points) sank a pair of foul shots with 1:59 left to extend the advantage to 53-45.
Her free throws came after she grabbed her own rebound following a prayer she fired up early in the shot clock, a move that would have left most coaches cringing.
"From the outset, you are right, it looks like kind of an emotional release, kind of a do-or-die deal where we should be more patient with the shot clock," she said. "But I think the statement that it made was powerful to our team: that we are not going to sit on a six-point lead and go, 'Oh, my gosh, I can't believe we're up six points, nobody else shoot the ball."'
When did they realize they could actually pull off their first upset of a ranked team in seven seasons?
"I think from tip-off," Hunter said. "We didn't have anything to lose really."
Amaka Uzomah pulled down 15 rebounds for the Rams, who will face New Mexico in the semifinals Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Leilani Mitchell led Utah with 19 points and Kalee Whipple and Warburton each had 11, but they were a combined 13-for-48 from the field.
"It's the first time all year that all three of our scorers struggled on the same night," Elliott said. "And we just feel like, you know, that's more of a statement about how good we've been, not how bad we were tonight."