The chase for the Mountain West Conference women’s basketball title seems to have become a two-horse race.
With a thrilling 64-61 overtime win against New Mexico on Saturday, Utah became the only MWC team to sweep the first half of conference play, and will take a 7-0 record into Fort Collins on Thursday.
The Utes were victorious despite shooting only 36 percent and being out-rebounded by the Lobos 38-33.
“A blessing came down on me from somewhere,” Utah head coach Elaine Elliot told the Salt Lake City Tribune. “We survived despite a difficult shooting day. But this is a lesson for us, because I know now that we won’t quit.”
Also in the conference race are the BYU Cougars, who stand at 5-2, just two games behind the Utes. The Cougars have thrived on their defense in their last two games, holding both New Mexico and Air Force to just 18 first half points.
Air Force (7-13, 1-6 MWC)
The Falcons were dealt a heavy blow when sophomore guard LaToya Howell was suspended from the team indefinitely on Jan. 31 for a violation of Academy rules.
Howell had been leading the Falcons in scoring, rebounding, steals and assists. Her 17.4 points per game were third in the conference.
The suspension will end the season for the Chicago, Ill., native.
“We still have quite a few games left to play this season, so this gives someone else a chance to step up. Hopefully, a bunch of people will step up,” said Air Force head coach Ardie McInelly in a statement released by the Academy. “LaToya meant a lot to our team, but life goes on. She’ll continue to lead our team every day in practice. She’s an awesome person who just made a mistake.”
New Mexico (13-7, 3-4 MWC)
The Lobos lost two games last weekend, but it wasn’t for lack of effort. In falling to both BYU and Utah, the Lobos out-rebounded and out-shot their opponent.
Along with CSU, New Mexico has to be considered one of the disappointments of the league. With four conference losses, the Lobos have now lost as many conference games as they did all last season.
San Diego State (8-11, 2-5 MWC)
With their victory over CSU Thursday, 60-47, the Aztecs won consecutive conference games for the first time in two seasons. The win also was SDSU’s first against a MWC team other than Air Force since the 2000-2001 season.
Senior guard Jamey Cox had an up-and-down weekend. While Cox set a conference record with most three-point attempts in a game (18) in a losing effort to Wyoming, she also saw her consecutive free-throw streak finally come to an end at 25. Cox’s streak had spanned 11 games until she missed the first of two chances following a CSU technical foul.
UNLV (13-7, 4-3 MWC)
The Rebels shot lights out over the weekend in a sweep of Wyoming and CSU.
Against the Rams, the Rebels shot 50.8 percent from the field, including a staggering 71 percent in the second half.
Senior All-America candidate Constance Jinks continues to impress for the Rebels. Jinks earned MWC Player of the Week after scoring 15 and 26 points over the weekend sweep of the Cowgirls and Rams. The award marks the eighth time in her career Jinks has earned Player of the Week distinction.
Wyoming (14-6, 4-3 MWC)</p>
The Cowgirls have to be considered one of the pleasant surprises in the conference.
A road victory at SDSU kept the Cowgirls in a tie for third in the conference, their best showing through seven conference games since the MWC’s inception.