Utes superb after a week off
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Maybe Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden should rethink his philosophy and schedule bye weeks more often.

A week away from competition certainly didn't hurt his team Friday, as the second-ranked Utes blasted past Arizona State 197.35-194.35 in front of 14,453 at the Huntsman Center.

Utah, which has been idle since setting a season-high of 197.525 against Michigan on Feb. 20, handled its bye week better this season than last year.

In 2008, the Utes came off their bye week and had their worst performance of the year at Oregon State, scoring a 196.3. Friday was a different kind of showing for the Utes, who scored season highs on the vault (49.525) and balance beam (49.45). Only a few glitches on the uneven bars and floor prevented the Utes from setting a season high for the second meet in a row.

Utah senior Kristina Baskett couldn't remember last year's troubles, but she attributed Utah's solid performance Friday to the hard work the Utes put into their training the last week.

"We were just using the time wisely," said Baskett, who won the all-around with a 39.575. "We had a couple of hard training days and a mock meet on Friday. It wasn't like we had a lot of time to rest."

Just as in their win against Michigan, the Utes made it through the night without a fall, showing the kind of consistency they were hoping for at this point in the season.

"We are down to the little things," Marsden said. "It's not like we are falling off the equipment. It's about cleaning things up, and that is where we are concentrating to make progress."

The timing couldn't be better for the Utes, who have their toughest competition coming to town next week when No. 4 Florida visits. While wins and losses don't necessarily matter in the regular season because teams are ranked by scoring averages, the Utes would still like to beat the Gators out of pride and to build confidence for nationals.

"It's going to be a good meet in front of our fans with a lot of good gymnastics," Baskett said.

In other words, it should be a lot like Friday's performance, with maybe a few cleaner routines on the bars and floor.

Marsden was at a loss to explain some of the mistakes on the bars, particularly because the troubles weren't on dismounts but in routines in which the Utes have excelled this season. Included in the miscues was an uneven bars routine by Daria Bijak in which she missed her handstand and had to make up the rest of her routine as a result.The improvisation didn't hurt her too much as she earned a 9.8.

"Most kids would have jumped down, but to her credit, she covered it and got through the rest of her routine," Marsden said. "Typically, that is an event we are our crispest on; I can't explain tonight. It was like we were trying a little too hard."

lwodraska@sltrib.com

The Utes hit a season high of 49.525 on the vault Friday. Here is a list of their top vault performances this season:

1. 49.525 Fri., vs. ASU

2. 49.45 Jan. 30 vs. OSU

3. 49.425 Jan. 9 vs. UCLA

4. 49.4 Feb. 20 vs. Michigan

5. 49.3 Feb. 9 vs. USU

Utah 197.35, Arizona St. 194.35

In brief » The Utes earn their seventh straight win over the Sun Devils and enjoy their best performance of the season on the vault.