COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Her stellar career at an end, Laura Kurz couldn't say any more. Asked to talk about her time with Villanova, tears began streaming down her face.

Kurz and her teammates had lost a first-round NCAA Tournament game to Utah, 60-30, in the Raleigh Regional, and after she struggled for the second straight game, the crying began.

The Wildcats ended the season 19-14, losing six of their last eight, and this one particularly hurt.

Villanova allowed the Utes to score the game's first 10 points, worrying coach Harry Perretta.

"We were very slow reacting to what they were doing," Perretta said. "In our first three possessions, we were literally frozen to the floor."

After the Wildcats crawled within 14-12 with 10 minutes, 45 seconds to play in the first half, Utah held Villanova to four points for the remainder of the period.

The second half was even worse. The eighth-seeded Wildcats missed 26 of 30 shots and didn't score at all in the last 5:57. Villanova hadn't scored fewer than 30 points since a 67-27 loss to Connecticut on Dec. 2, 1997. It's also the third-fewest points in women's NCAA Tournament history.

"We have games where we just don't make any shots," Perretta said.

The ninth-seeded Utes will play No. 1-seeded Maryland on the Terps' home court tomorrow in the second round.

Perretta couldn't blame Kurz, who was named to the Big East all-conference team - and named its most improved player. Kurz, who played two seasons for Duke before transferring to Villanova, is a shy young woman. Perretta often coaxed her to be a greater part of the team's offense, and when she struggled to summarize her time, he defended her.

"Here she has to make almost every shot for us to win," Perretta said. "We're not close to being here unless she plays for us. I'm sitting here at Maryland. I could have been home on my couch watching the game."

Averaging 17.6 points per game, Kurz was held scoreless in the Wildcats' last game - a 72-42 loss to UConn in the Big East semifinals. Yesterday, she had 11 points - missing 14 of her 19 field-goal attempts and all seven of her three-point attempts. Kalee Whipple, who had 15 points for the Utes, pointed out that Utah coach Elaine Elliott made three-point defense a focal point.

"Our goal was to take away the three-pointer and make them into a driving team," Whipple said. "[Kurz] is a tough player. She isn't easy to guard at all."

"My last two games, I could not put the ball in the basket, whatsoever," Kurz said. "But I'm proud of our team. We exceeded our expectations. My career has been full of ups and downs, but I'm glad I got to the tournament again."

Villanova won seven straight in January and February before hitting the skids.

"For this group of kids to have gotten there was amazing," Perretta said. "We played at such a high level in January and February, and unfortunately today we did not play at a high level. I can't really be mad about it because they played so far above their physical abilities."

Perhaps there will be pro opportunities for Kurz, but for now, this one stings. "It's not the way you want to go out," she said. *