SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- It took Utah 14 games to clinch the Mountain West Conference title and barely a few minutes to finish a perfect season in the league.
The Utes (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today. No. 15 AP) won their 22nd game in a row, 82-46, over UNLV on Saturday to complete a 16-0 season in the Mountain West.Utah (27-3) opened the game on a 21-4 run and led by at least 14 the rest of the way to become the first team to sweep the Mountain West in seven years. The Utes also completed the feat in 2000-01."They have a standard that their committed to realizing," Utah coach Elaine Elliott said.
Leilani Mitchell had 14 points and 13 assists and was one rebound shy of her first triple-double and Kaylee Whipple scored 20 for the Utes, who haven't lost since Dec. 3.The team holds the longest winning streak in school history and has a chance to set record for victories in a season. The 2000-01 team went 28-4. The Utes have the Mountain West and NCAA tournaments to play, needing one victory to tie the record and two to break it.
"We're such a good team together," said Whipple, who also had 10 rebounds.Utah shot 50 percent, made 9 of 10 free throws and forced UNLV (8-21, 4-12) into 16 turnovers. The Utes also outrebounded the Rebels 45-29.UNLV coach Regina Miller was stunned after the game, trying to figure out how her team lost by 36 points. There were plenty of reasons. The Rebels took quick shots, not allowing anybody to get in position for a rebound and leaving no time to get back on defense."We triggered their fast break and they're not an up-tempo team," Miller said. "We played catch-up the whole time."Mitchell, the 5-foot-5 transfer from Idaho, had her sixth double-double of the season."I wanted to be part of a winning program," said Mitchell, who had to sit out last season because of the transfer. "It's been much better than I imagined."Kaylee Whipple had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Morgan Warburton scored 12 and Deanne Stevenson 10 for Utah.The Utes clinched the Mountain West title a week before with a win over Wyoming, then struggled at last-place Colorado State on Wednesday. Utah kept the perfect league season intact by winning 63-58 over the Rams, who went 0-16 in the MWC."I think we had a little bit of a reality check in Colorado State," Warburton said.
Utah opened the game on an 11-4 run before UNLV called timeout. Utah scored the next 10 points and held the Rebels scoreless for 6:33. Sequioia Holmes broke the drought on a three-point play with 12:04 remaining, to get UNLV within 27-4.Whipple answered with a 3-pointer to start a 15-3 runl. The Utes led 44-19 at halftime and Elliott subbed freely in the second half. Holmes scored 15 and Brittany Halberg 14 points for UNLV, which shot 28 percent in the first half.