On Saturday, Dec. 9 the University of Utah women’s basketball team will head south to take on in-state rival, BYU at 2 p.m.
“We played here [Huntsman Center] last year and we had a great crowd and it was really fun. The community cares about this game and that is what makes it fun,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “Both teams want to beat each other really badly and both sets of fans want to beat each other really badly.”
Saturday’s contest will be the freshmen’s first taste of the rivalry and some returning players will also be facing BYU in Provo for the first time.
“It is a fun game. They are a good program and they are very well coached,” Roberts said. “It is going to be a battle, it always is.”
Desire to improve
When asked to pinpoint a specific area on where this year’s team differs from this past season, Roberts expanded on the depth of the team. This has been a factor that has contributed to the Utes 7-1 start to the season. Roberts also added that the team has a different mentality.
“This team just feels different in terms of their collective buy-in,” Roberts said. ”It isn’t conditional, they really want to be good.”
Roberts singled out Tuesday night’s fourth quarter performance, in which Utah was outscored 24-19 as an example of how this year’s team has a different hunger than she has seen in the past.
“That is why I think [Tuesday night] is going to be a good eye opener for us, because they don’t want to play like that,” Roberts said.
The team has scored most of its points in the paint and it has a different level of intensity on the defensive side of the ball this season. Roberts wants her team to put together more complete performances and she sees the desire to change consuming this year’s team.
“I think there is going to be a desire to change and improve and I don’t know if that is different from last year,” Roberts said. “But that is kind of what this year’s personality is becoming.”
On Tuesday, Pepperdine came ready to defend the post-play. This left Utah with many opportunities to hit from the 3-point line, however, it failed to capitalize as the team went 3-of-11 from downtown. The Utes were still able to score 89 points and over 60 of those points came from inside the paint. Utah has struggled from deep in a couple of games this season, but Roberts is more interested in the shot selection than what kinds of shots the Utes are making.
“The way Pepperdine was defending our pick-and-rolls and the same thing with Saint Mary’s, we could have shot the three every possession,” Roberts said. “They are kind of begging us to shoot the three because they don’t want to defend our post play, which I don’t blame them.”
Roberts believes offensive success for this team will come if it makes smart decisions in regards to its shot selections.
“I was actually pleased [Tuesday night] with our shot selection,” Roberts said. “We weren’t just firing threes up, even though as a guard it is tempting when you are open every time, but we kept working for better shots.”