Middle Tennessee's Tia Stovall, left, is blocked out by Utah's Jessica Perry. (AP Photo/Khampha Bouaphanh )
March 18, 2006
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - Shona Thorburn brought Utah back from the brink of a first-round upset in the NCAA tournament.
The senior guard scored eight of her 21 points in the final 4 1/2 minutes and the fifth-seeded Utes rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit Saturday to beat No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee 76-71.
Kim Smith, a four-time Mountain West Conference player of the year, struggled most of the game but scored five as Utah outscored the Blue Raiders 15-4 over the final 4:13.
Chrissy Givens had 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds but missed three of four free throws in the final 4 minutes. Johnna Abney, a 5-foot-4 freshman, scored 15 on 5-of-9 3-pointers. Krystle Horton and Tia Stovall added 10 points apiece.
The Utes were 19-for-21 free throws, 8-for-8 by Thorburn, compared with 3-for-8 by Middle Tennessee.
Givens' 10-footer put Middle Tennessee ahead 67-61 with 4:34 remaining. Smith responded with her only 3 of the game to cut it to 67-64. After Givens made one of two free throws to boost the Raiders' lead to 68-64 with 3:56 to play, Thorburn followed with her only 3 in five attempts to cut it to 68-67 with 3:08 left.
Givens missed two free throws with 2:41 to go. Utah turned it over, and Givens hit Stovall for a layup. But Stovall was called for an offensive foul to erase the basket, and Thorburn's three-point play gave Utah its first second-half lead, 70-68, with 1:07 left.
Thorburn made two free throws to boost the lead to 72-68 with 32.2 seconds left. Julie Larsen's two free throws with 12.4 seconds put Utah ahead 74-68. Abney's 3 cut it to 74-71 with 4.3 seconds to go, but the Utes threw the length of the court to Smith for a layup to seal the victory.
Middle Tennessee stretched it to 57-42 after Stovall's driving layup with 10:11 remaining.
The Utes scored the next 11 to get back in it, capped by Thorburn's three-point play that cut the lead to 57-53 with 8:04 to play.