March 18, 2006
FIRST ROUND NOTES: Attendance for the first session of first round action was 2,156. This marks the second time the McKale Center has hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament, with the last time coming in 1998 when the University of Arizona advanced to the sweet 16.
UTAH NOTES: The University of Utah makes its 14th appearance in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament. In the previous 12 seasons the Utes have earned a trip to the NCAA Tournament eight times, including last year. The University of Utah earned a No. 5 seed, the highest in school history, in this year's NCAA Tournament after winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Prior to today's game, the Utes had posted a winning percentage of 44 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a 4-9 record. Senior forward Kim Smith enters her final NCAA Tournament after being named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. In addition, Smith was named to the first-team All-Mountain West Conference.
MIDDLE TENNESSEE NOTES: In its 10th overall NCAA Tournament appearance, first under head coach Rick Insell, the Blue Raiders enter the tournament as a No. 12 seed after winning the Sun Belt Tournament title for the third consecutive year. In 1985, the Blue Raiders earned their highest tournament seed at No. 5 and have retained the No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. Middle Tennessee finished the regular season at 20-10, led by junior guard Chrissy Givens who became the second player in Sun Belt Conference history to win the Sun Belt Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Sun Belt Tournament Most Outstanding Player all in the same season. The Blue Raiders had reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament three times and were looking to reach the second round for the third consecutive year. At the NCAA Tournament in 2005, Middle Tennessee upset fifth-seeded North Carolina State with a last second buzzer beater by former Blue Raider Patrice Holmes.
SECOND HALF NOTES: The Blue Raiders opened the second half with a three pointer to take their first lead of the game since the first minute of action. They continued their run from the first half outscoring Utah 9-2 in the first three minutes of the second half. The Blue Raiders continued to outscore the Utes with their biggest lead of 15 coming with 10:10 remaining. Utah responded with an 11-0 run to cut the Blue Raider lead to four with less than eight minutes remaining. The Utes cut the Blue Raider lead to one point with less than two minutes to play. Utah then took the lead, 70-68, for this first time in the half with a basket by senior guard Shona Thorburn. The Utes closed out the game with a 15-4 run for the 76-71 first round victory over Middle Tennessee.
GAME NOTES: The Blue Raiders' junior guard Chrissy Givens led all scorers with 25 points. The Utes' leading scorer was senior guard Shona Thorburn with 21 points. The leading rebounder was Givens for Middle Tennessee (seven). Leading the Utes in rebounds were senior forward Kim Smith (10) and sophomore forward Jessica Perry (10). With the victory today, the Utes have now won their won their last four first round games in the NCAA Tournament.
Utah will face the winner of the No. 4 Arizona State vs. No. 13 Stephen F. Austin game in the second round on Monday, March 20, 2006 at the McKale Center in Tucson, Ariz.