SALT LAKE CITY, Utah --
Northwestern went neck-and-neck with last year's Elite Eight squad, but Utah pulled away in the final minutes en route to a 80-69 victory Wednesday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. Melissa Miller
(Bloomington, Minn./The Breck School) contributed a career-and team-high 16 points while also pulling down eight boards. The Wildcats conclude the nonconference season with a 6-7 record.
"Utah came to finish a ball game," head coach Beth Combs said. "They wanted it more and made the plays. You have to give them credit."
Northwestern hit the first bucket of the game and forced a 30 second shot-clock violation, seizing momentum early. The Utes chimed in soon after, as 12 of the first 17 points of the game came from long range.
The Wildcats' pressed for the first time this season, resulting in five Utah turnovers in the first nine minutes. But the Utes re-grouped and posted a 10-4 run to take a 26-19 lead with 6:49 left in the first half. A 3-pointer by freshman Beth Marshall (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) cut the Ute lead to a pair with 2:13 remaining.
Utah led 35-32 at the break, thanks to a 48 percent effort from the field. Miller kept NU in the game, scoring 12 of her 16 points in the opening stanza while Northwestern's stingy defense forced nine Ute turnovers. The 'Cats went 3-of-7 from beyond the arc.
The second-half saw the score yo-yo back and forth four times. On the game, there were seven ties and 13 lead changes. Northwestern reclaimed the lead, 40-39, with 15:11 left in the game, and the two squads battled back and forth from there.
A free-throw by Utah's Marie Warner with 4:18 remaining gave the Utes a one-point lead and propelled the home team to outscore NU 14-6 over the next three-plus minutes. Utah hit 7-of-9 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Senior A.J. Glasauer (Freiburg, Germany/Theodor-Heuss Gymnasium) poured in a team-high 16 points--her 11th double-digit effort of the season. The captain hit 11-of-14 from the charity stripe, the second-most free throws made by any Big Ten player so far this season.
Sara Stutz (Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South) joined Glasauer and Miller in double-figures with 13 points, including three treys.
NU out-shot Utah from beyond the arc, knocking down 41 percent of its looks, while also shooting 42.3 percent from the field; the same as the Utes.
The Wildcats open the 2006-07 Big Ten season on Dec. 28 when they travel to Wisconsin for a 7 p.m. contest against the Badgers.