Utes Ready to Take on Challenge

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The University of Utah women’s basketball team returned to Salt Lake City, albeit briefly, after a weekend road trip that saw them split games against Washington State and Washington. Against the Cougars, Utah took an early lead and never looked back as it cruised to a 74-57 win.

“Defensively, we’ve been good all year and tonight we were able to score a little bit,” said head coach Lynne Roberts after the game. “I felt like we shot the ball better. We turned it over a little too much, but I’m not going to be picky right now. I think the biggest thing is rebounding — we crushed them on the boards. I’m proud of the team and our defense was really good.”

Senior wing Paige Crozon led the Utes in both games and scored 19 points in the game against Washington State. She followed that performance with a 22 point outing two nights later against the Huskies, and Roberts had high praise for her lone senior.

“That’s the Paige that we all know,” Roberts said. “She was shooting fearlessly and knocking down big shots and that was the big thing our whole team did against UW. How Paige is playing, scoring, rebounding and defending is a great personification for how the whole team is playing.”

The Utes jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead, and they held the home team scoreless for nearly three and half minutes. The Cougars eventually responded, but by the end of the first quarter, the Utes held a 17-10 advantage.

In the opening minutes of the second, the Utes stretched their lead to 10 points following a three-pointer from Crozon. Freshman wing Megan Jacobs connected with junior wing Malia Nawahine on an inside pass that led to a reverse layup to keep the Utes up by 10, 22-12. After two quarters, the visiting team increased its lead to 12, taking a 33-21 lead into the half.

The Utes won the remaining two quarters en route to their fifth conference victory. Nawahine and junior forward Emily Potter joined Crozon as the other Utes produced double figures. Utah was dominant on both sides of the ball, shooting 43 percent from the field and holding the home team to just 27 percent shooting.

Against Washington, the Utes played valiantly but came up short in the end, falling 84-77. The Utes were led by Crozon’s 22 points, while junior wing Tanaeya Boclair chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds, while Potter added another 12 points.

As it turns out, the night was a historic one for the Utes, though probably not for the reason that they wanted. Kelsey Plum broke the NCAA all-time women’s basketball scoring record when she dropped 57 points on the Utes.

“It was spectacular. The atmosphere was incredible,” Roberts said. “I have played in packed arenas before, but that one had an electricity and an energy to it that I hadn’t been apart of. We tried everything. We were running two people at her, trapping ball screens, pressing to try to get the ball out of her hands. It was spectacular. At the end of the game, I was proud of our team, because we didn’t quit and we didn’t fold. It’s not how I really wanted to get on SportsCenter, but we did. It was a pretty cool moment for women’s basketball.”

The Utes are on the road for the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle, they will take on Arizona State on Thursday, March 2.

j.walch@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JaredWalch

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