Feb. 14, 2009

LINCOLN, Neb. - A big night by Nina Kim helped top- ranked Utah to a closer-than-it looks 196.525-195.725 victory over No. 12 Nebraska. Kim, whose career-high 9.925 as Utah's final competitor sealed the victory, won the all-around with a season-tying 39.50. It was the senior's first all-around win of 2009 and it came at a good time.

Utah had built a comfortable one-point lead heading into the balance beam, and about all that could send the Utes to their fifth loss in six tries in Lincoln was two falls and a few breaks. When normally reliable Kyndal Robarts fell as Utah's leadoff performer, the pressure mounted for the remaining five Utes. Nebraska was doing its part to put on the heat by picking up one big score after another on the floor.

As they have all year long, the Utes responded to their teammate's fall by aggressively attacking the apparatus. Kristina Baskett, for instance, possibly saved the meet when she appeared headed for a crash landing on her kick-over. The senior, who had scored a 9.875 or better on the three apparatus leading up to the beam, defied gravity - furiously wind-milling her arms - and stayed aboard. While her 9.65 was her worst beam score of the year, it was good enough. Kim walked through her routine without an error and the Utes had their first dual win in Lincoln and only their second win since the 1995 NCAA Regionals.

Utah used five all-arounders for the first time in recent memory. Kim won top honors with a 39.50, Baskett (39.30) placed second and Daria Bijak and Deetscreek (39.225) tied for third. It was a season high for Bijak. Gael Mackie, who fell on the floor only to redeem herself on the beam with a 9.725 immediately after Robarts' fall, placed seventh (38.500).

Individual event winners for the Utes were Kim, DiLuzio and Baskett on vault (9.875), Baskett on bars (9.90) and Kim on beam (9.925).

Things were all knotted up after one event, with the Utes scoring a 49.10 on the bars and Nebraska on the vault. All six Utes hit their routines and a beautifully executed routine by Baskett at the end of the lineup earned the lone 9.90 for the nation's top-ranked bars team.

Utah pulled away in the second rotation, putting together a solid vault set for a 49.250 even while Nebraska was struggling over on the bars, counting a fall and going 48.40. All six Utes scored a 9.80 or better on vault and Kim, Annie DiLuzio and Baskett each drew a 9.875 from the bottom of the lineup. After two rotations, Utah led 98.350-97.500.

Nebraska clawed back on the third rotation, scoring a 48.925 on the beam--only slightly behind Utah's 49.150 on the floor. Jamie Deetscreek opened Utah's floor set with a pretty looking 9.825 and Gael Mackie looked headed for a big score before falling at the end of her last tumbling pass. With the pressure on, Bijak (9.725), Kim (9.875), Baskett (9.875) and DiLuzio (9.85) came through. Bijak had a 9.85 but was docked a tenth for a neutral deduction from the judges' table near the middle of the mat. It appeared from seats by the corner in question that she landed in bounds but there were not any line judges. The Utes led by a point going into the final event--147.500-146.425.

A big chunk of the cushion disappeared immediately when Robarts fell off beam from the leadoff position for the first time this season. With the meet hanging in the balance, Mackie hit a 9.725 and Deetscreek(9.85) and Bijak (9.875) appeared completely at ease. After Baskett's near fall, Kim posted a 9.925 and Utah earned a 49.025.