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Utah notches fifth straight 20-win season with 15th consecutive victory

SALT LAKE CITY -- Another year, another 20 wins for Utah
coach Elaine Elliott.

The Utes (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP) locked up their fifth straight 20-win season by
beating Air Force 66-49 on Saturday, extending their winning streak
to 15 in a row.

The Utes have won at least 20 games in 18 of Elliott's 25
seasons and reached the milestone this year with another month left
in the regular season. Utah (20-3, 9-0) hasn't lost in more than
two months.

"It sure feels good," Elliott said.

Leilani Mitchell led Utah with 19 points and 10 assists for her
second straight double-double and third of the season.

"Twenty wins is a big step for us," Leilani Mitchell said.
"But we still have a whole month of playing basketball."

With the win, the Utes became the first team in Mountain West
history to win 100 league games and are a perfect 25-0 against Air
Force.

Air Force (7-14, 1-8) coach Ardie McInelly knew what she was
facing Saturday.

"They just have so many weapons," she said. "If you try to
concentrate on a perimeter player, they've got some post players
that will step up and do a nice job of slipping to the basket."

McInelly said her players tried to some of the things they don't
normally do in games. It showed as Utah forced 18 turnovers which
sparked Utah's first half lead.

Utah started the game slowly, going 8-for-18 and were only up by
two points with about 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Then
the Utes started hitting some shots.

"Maybe we weren't aggressive in the first half," Mitchell said.
"Our focus wasn't as high, but there's no excuse. We're going to
get their best shot and we expect that from teams."

Utah, sparked by defensive effort, shot 8-for-9 for the rest of
the half and led 40-25 after Mitchell hit a jumper in the key at
the buzzer.

Air Force would never get back in the game.

Jessica Perry scored 12 points and Morgan Warburton finished
with 11 points for the Utes, who haven't lost since Dec. 3.

Utah committing just seven turnovers and was 16-for-27 in the
first half. The Utes cooled off in the second half, but still were
never threatened by the Falcons (7-14, 1-8).

Brooke Cultra led Air Force with 13 points and Raimee Beck
scored 12.

The Falcons came out aggressive in the second half, but never
made much of a dent in Utah's lead. Air Force pulled within 13 on
Beck's 3-pointer with about 16 minutes left, but Utah answered with
two quick 3s from Kalee Whipple and Warburton.

Both teams went about three minutes in the second half without
hitting a shot until Perry and Deanne Stevenson scored back-to-back
hoops to bring the lead to 53-32.

Utah's defense continued to confuse Air Force. The Falcons
couldn't get the ball inside and were forced to shoot from long
range.

Whipple had nine points and 10 rebounds. Warburton finished with
11 points.