By Anna Haynie
Whenever BYU faces its long-time rival, the University of Utah, a heated competition is inevitable.
This time, it is more than just a 26-year-old rivalry that adds fuel to the fire. The two opponents meeting Friday night in the Marriott Center also happen to be the first- and second-ranked teams, respectively, in the Mountain West Conference.
Tip-off for what promises to be an intense game is set for 7 p.m.
With their second-place spot in the MWC standings, the Cougars have a great deal riding on this game.
One disadvantage facing the Cougars is the loss of a big player, senior guard Cady Williams. Williams underwent surgery on her hand Thursday after breaking it in three places during Wednesday’s practice.
Doctors expect Williams to be out for four weeks.
Taking Williams’ place will be sophomore forward Lisa Osguthorpe.
Despite the setback, the Cougars are trying to take this as another game.
“(Utah) is hyped up as a big rival, but I don’t look at it as an extra special game,” sophomore guard Stacey Jensen said. “We’re going into the game with confidence.”
Friday night’s game will be the 68th meeting between Utah and BYU women’s basketball, with the Utes leading the series 43-25.
Both teams are coming off impressive home victories.
Utah (13-4, 4-0) jumped into first place in the MWC standings after two home wins last weekend.
The Cougars won their game Saturday against Wyoming by a 15-point margin. Despite their win Saturday, the Cougars (13-4, 3-1) stepped down from the first-place slot with a loss to Colorado State last week.
BYU and Utah have shared wins over three of the same teams this season – UNLV, SDSU and Wyoming. Their almost-identical records have one discrepancy, however, which comes from BYU’s 11-point loss to CSU last week. Utah beat CSU by 25.
BYU’s leading scorers are consistently bringing in double-digits. Jill Adams is averaging 15.1 points per game closely followed by Erin Thorn with 12.9.
Utah’s players to watch are Lauren Beckman, who is averaging 12.1 points per game and Kristina Anderson, who averages 8.6.
A Cougar loss would give the Utes a two-point lead in the conference. A difficult deficit to make up for later.
“We need to be ready to play defense for full 40 minutes,” said Shippen. “It’s going to be a tough game.”