Shona Thorburn passes the ball under pressure from Air Force forward Dawn Higginbotham in the first half. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
March 8, 2006
"You have to make sure that your kids aren't standing, watching," Elliott said. "We have to deal with that. We sometimes get stagnant."
Smith scored a season-high 29 points and had 13 rebounds to lead No. 19 Utah to a 67-47 win over Air Force in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference on Wednesday.
It was the latest example of how easy it is for her teammates to slip into that wide-eyed wonderment that so many fans fall into when watching the four-time league player of the year.
"Our kids have had a good season and there's been a good support group around her. She hasn't done it all alone. She'd be the first to tell you that," Elliott said. "Yet, what a kid like that means as your center and your core is obviously undeniable."
The Utes (22-6) took a 28-18 halftime lead over the Falcons (13-15) thanks to Smith, who had 13 points and 10 boards at the break.
Smith, who shared player of the year honors with BYU's Ambrosia Anderson this season, showed her athleticism by swishing a follow-up shot before her feet touched the floor after Ellen Jaeschke rejected a shot back into her arms in the first half.
Utah missed its next nine shots over a 6 1/2-minute stretch, however, and Air Force crept back to 20-18 before Smith ended the drought with a basket underneath.
"It happens in every game," Smith said. "You'll go through a stretch where people just aren't hitting shots. Unfortunately, it was all five of us not hitting shots. I mean, we had a couple of layups, even rollouts. Whether it was them or us, I'm not really sure."
Jessica Perry, who scored 13, added four quick points and Smith sank a jumper from the circle to give the Utes some breathing room at halftime.
Jaeschke led Air Force with a career-high 20 points.
"I'm happy," Jaeschke said. "I'm not happy that we lost, but I'm happy because we know we have everyone coming back. We just have so much potential. We're going to really come out and show everyone what's up next year. I'm really excited."
Elliott praised Air Force coach Ardie McInelly and her young roster, which produced a school-record 13 wins as a Division I program, six more than the previous high.
"Gone are the days when that's anybody's automatic win," Elliott said.