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Thorburn saves No. 5 Utah from early elimination

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Shona Thorburn brought Utah back from the
brink of a first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament.

The senior guard scored eight of her 21 points in the final 4½
minutes and the fifth-seeded Utes rallied from a 15-point
second-half deficit Saturday to beat No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee
76-71.

Kim Smith, a four-time Mountain West Conference player of the
year, struggled most of the game but scored five as Utah outscored
the Blue Raiders 15-4 over the final 4:13.

Jessica Perry scored 13 of her season-high 14 points in the
first half for Utah. Smith and Heidi Carlsen added 13 points
apiece.

Chrissy Givens had 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds but
missed three of four free throws in the final 4 minutes. Johnna
Abney, a 5-foot-4 freshman, scored 15 on 5-of-9 3-pointers. Krystle
Horton and Tia Stovall added 10 points apiece.

The Utes were 19-for-21 free throws, 8-for-8 by Thorburn,
compared with 3-for-8 by Middle Tennessee.

Givens' 10-footer put Middle Tennessee ahead 67-61 with 4:34
remaining. Smith responded with her only 3 of the game to cut it to
67-64. After Givens made one of two free throws to boost the
Raiders' lead to 68-64 with 3:56 to play, Thorburn followed with
her only 3 in five attempts to cut it to 68-67 with 3:08 left.

Givens missed two free throws with 2:41 to go. Utah turned it
over, and Givens hit Stovall for a layup. But Stovall was called
for an offensive foul to erase the basket, and Thorburn's
three-point play gave Utah its first second-half lead, 70-68, with
1:07 left.

Thorburn made two free throws to boost the lead to 72-68 with
32.2 seconds left. Julie Larsen's two free throws with 12.4 seconds
put Utah ahead 74-68. Abney's 3 cut it to 74-71 with 4.3 seconds to
go, but the Utes threw the length of the court to Smith for a layup
to seal the victory.

The Blue Raiders scored the last 10 points of the first half,
including a pair of 3-pointers by Abney, to tie it at 31-31, then
outscored the Utes 17-5 to start the second, taking a 48-36 lead on
Starr Orr's 15-footer with 12:42 to play.

Middle Tennessee stretched it to 57-42 after Stovall's driving
layup with 10:11 remaining.

The Utes scored the next 11 to get back in it, capped by
Thorburn's three-point play that cut the lead to 57-53 with 8:04 to
play.