On the road, for its first time this season, the University of Utah basketball team fell short to Alabama on Monday night. Despite the five-point loss, it hasn’t knocked the team’s confidence level down. Playing against the Crimson Tide helped Utah see where it stands as a team, two games into its schedule.
“We tried to increase our schedule this year a little bit,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “We felt, you know last year we went undefeated, 11-0 in preseason and non-conference and then got to Pac-12 play, and I don’t know that we had prepared our team for kind of just how big and physical and how good the Pac-12 is. We’ve tried to schedule up a little bit this preseason and so that Alabama game was part of that.”
For some teams, going on the road is something that might be looked at as more of an obstacle than an opportunity. For Roberts and her team, they relish the chance to travel and face opponents on their stomping grounds.
“I loved that we played [Alabama]. I loved that it was on the road, as weird as that sounds,” Roberts said. “It was really good for us in that way.”
Utah was neck and neck with Alabama during the game. The Utes didn’t fold in the third quarter although the Crimson Tide had a strong performance, outscoring the Utes, 23-16. What stood out to Roberts from that matchup was the way she saw her team communicate on the road and the positive vibes on the bench.
“Playing on the road, I enjoy it to be honest with you,” Roberts said. “I like that adversity in terms of you really do kind of have to lock arms and it’s just the people in that locker room, there’s something cool about that.”
While redshirt junior Megan Huff and freshman Tori Williams have played big roles on the offensive side of the ball, Utah knows it will need to win games through its defense as well. In the Utes’ first two games of their season, they have outrebounded opponents, 83-67. They’re also finding other ways to get the ball back in their hands and they have accomplished that through steals. They have racked up 12 steals up to this point in their regular season.
“I think we have a really good defensive team. We really do,” Roberts said. “I think Gavin [Petersen] who coaches the defense does a heck of a job. And we just got to stay focused … and that’s what good teams do … you stay locked into the game plan and who you’re guarding.”