Utes share MWC regular season title, lose tourney

SALT LAKE CITY -- Spurned by the NCAA tournament, the 24-7
Utah women turned down an invitation for Women's National
Invitation Tournament.

The sometimes-ranked Utes finished the regular season with a
share of the Mountain West Conference championship and had an RPI
of 40.

But -- like the No. 22 Utah State men -- they did not win their
conference tournament, losing Saturday night to New Mexico 71-50 in
the championship game at Denver. The USU men also were disappointed
about not getting a NCAA berth, but they accepted an NIT

The first hint the Utah women received Sunday that they might be
passed over came when New Mexico, which shared the regular-season
conference title with Utah, was seeded only 12th in the Midwest

"We thought we were going. It's like a big shock and a big
disappointment," said Kim Smith, two time MWC Player of the Year.
"It was incredibly hard. We kept wishing our name popped up, and
when it didn't, I can't even describe the feeling."

Utah coach Elaine Elliott announced the decision not to accept
the WNIT invitation following an emotional 45-minute team meeting.

Going to the WNIT was simply not one of her team's goals, she

"I told them it isn't for me. I don't care about it. The
program doesn't need it. I don't need it," Elliott said. "It's
only about them, and they chose not to do that."

"We kind of discussed our motives for going, and we didn't want
to go just to prove to people that we should have been in the
tournament," said Kelsy Stireman, one of four seniors on the