Women’s Basketball: Utes End Season Above .500

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Ute Wing Malia Nawahine (3) drives the ball during the Utah Utes Women's annual "Pink Game" vs. the Oregon Ducks at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

The University of Utah women’s basketball team recently finished its season in a somewhat disappointing fashion. They lost in the first round of the WNIT to UC Davis at the Huntsman Center on March 17. While this isn’t the outcome that the team may have hoped for, there are still plenty of positives that have come from this season.

The Utes finished the season with a 16-15 overall record that included solid wins on the road against USC and Washington State, and they swept the season series against California. The Utes also came within a stone’s throw of knocking off Washington on the road.

The Utes had the strongest opening to a season they have had in many years. During their nonconference schedule, the Utes compiled a perfect 11-0 record — a feat that the Utes haven’t achieved since the 2000-01 schedule when the team started out 13-0.

“Through 11 games, you can’t get any better than 11-0,” head coach Lynne Roberts said.

Though the Utes sometimes had a hard time scoring the ball and they ranked near the bottom of the conference in offensive categories, Utah boasted one of the better defensive schemes in the Pac-12. The Utes were ranked fourth in the conference in opponent field goal percentage as they restricted opposing teams to just 38 percent from the floor. The Utes clamped down even harder out on the perimeter, where opposing teams shot just 30 percent.

The Utes also swatted nearly five and a half shots per game, led largely by the efforts of junior forward Emily Potter, who averaged nearly three blocks per game.

Potter was just one of 26 Utah women’s basketball players, one being current teammate senior wing Paige Crozon, to hit the vaunted 1,000 point mark during her career at the U. Potter hit the mark during a non-conference game against Northern Arizona.

As for Crozon, she didn’t hit the mark until the last possible moment and she achieved that feat in the final game of the season against UC Davis.

Roberts spoke about what Crozon has meant to her team as the lone senior this year.

“We are going to have to replace [Paige’s shooting] and I think we have some recruits coming in who can do that, but they won’t be fifth-year seniors,” Roberts said. “Paige brings a consistency and I always know what I am getting with her. Whether it is a Tuesday morning practice or a Saturday night game, she is the same.”

In spite of the challenges, this looks like a team on the rise. Roberts will have four starters returning next season — one junior and three seniors — as well as some solid recruits.

j.walch@dailyutahchronicle.com

@JaredWalch

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