Utah opponent a giant killer

first_imgFollowers of the Utah women’s basketball team and perhaps even players on the team might have the inclination to overlook the Utes’ first-round game against Middle Tennessee State and focus on the possible second-round opponent, Arizona State.That would be a mistake.Because if there’s one thing the Blue Raiders have proved the past two years is that they can win first-round games no matter where they are seeded.Last year Middle Tennessee was a No. 12 seed, like this year, and upset No. 5 seed North Carolina State 60-58. A year earlier as a No. 13 seed, the Blue Raiders knocked off North Carolina 67-62.The Blue Raiders are a veteran team, one of three in the country with at least three 1,000-point career scorers. They are led by junior guard Chrissy Givens, who averaged 21.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. The other two top scorers are forwards Krystle Horton and Tia Stovall, who average 12.0 and 9.6 points, respectively. NO. 5 AGAIN: While the No. 5 seed for the Utah women is their highest ever, twice before they have received No. 5 seeds.In 1997, the Utes were a No. 5 seed and beat Iowa State in the opening round at Charlottesville, Va., before losing to Virginia in the second round. Then in 2001, Utah was also a No. 5 seed and hosted the NCAAs at the Huntsman Center, where they defeated Fairfield in the first round and Iowa in the second round. They lost to eventual national champion Notre Dame in the third round. BEEN THERE: A lot of folks figured the Utes would be going back to Denver this week since they won the Mountain West Conference tournament there and would be rewarded with a familiar venue.But the Utes are still familiar with the McKale Center where they’ll be playing this weekend.The Utes played their second road game of the season down there on Nov. 26 and came away with a 66-63 victory over the University of Arizona. “It’s great to be heading back to Tucson,” said Ute leading scorer Kim Smith. “It’s fairly close and hopefully we can get a few people there.” FEUD’S OVER: As far as Ute coach Elaine Elliott is concerned, the war of words with BYU coach Jeff Judkins is over. The two had exchanged words after Utah’s 84-60 win Saturday with Judkins later accusing the Utes with not having “class” and running up the score on his team.The two appeared together on KUTV Sunday evening and smoothed things out afterward, according to Elliott. “We’ve talked,” Elliott said. “He and I are fine and we’re both moving forward. That’s all I have to say.” GAME NOTES: The winner of Saturday’s game (11 a.m.) will play the winner of Arizona State and Stephen F. Austin on Monday evening . . . Middle Tennessee is located, of course, in the middle of Tennessee, in Murfreesboro. It was founded in 1911 and has a student population of 22,554. Its colors are Royal Blue and White . . . Utah and Middle Tennessee have met once before, in 1978 when the Utes won 82-74. E-mail: [email protected]last_img