Friday’s home game for the University of Utah women’s basketball team against UCLA featured the biggest crowd during head coach Lynne Roberts’ tenure. From the moment she took over at the helm, building the program in terms of winning and creating a brand have been her top goals.
“I think our athletic department has done a really good job promoting our program,” Roberts said. “They have put effort into it and I appreciate that very much and it shows. UCLA came in ranked No. 14 and that helps, bringing in quality opponents with that brand name, but we are getting better. We are playing a fun style of basketball.”
Taking a Breather
Roberts said coaching is a science, and she mentioned the importance of understanding where her team is at every day. That is why she had the Utes take a few days off after their season-low offensive output of 47 points against USC on Sunday.
“I felt like our team just looked flat,” Roberts said. “We were tired. I don’t think we were physically tired, I just think we looked emotionally drained and out of character. So, what we did was take two days off. We were supposed to practice yesterday [Monday], and we didn’t. They didn’t have school yesterday because of the holiday, so they got yesterday completely off and we aren’t practicing today [Tuesday] either.”
Minus Sunday’s performance, Utah has been scoring 10 more points per game than it had been the previous season. While Roberts’ style of coaching plays a role in that improvement, it’s her observations and experimentation to find different results that help most.
“It is not an exact formula,” Roberts said. “And you have to just kind of need to have that pulse on your team because every team is different. If I had felt Sunday was a lack of desire of discipline, we probably would have been running yesterday and had a miserably tough and hard practice yesterday, but that is not what this team needed. You just have to know your team and do your best guess as to what they may need.”
The Utes will hit the road to take on Arizona State on Friday, Jan. 19 and Arizona on Sunday, Jan. 21. They are 2-0 in Pac-12 away games and 1-3 on their home court. While it’s too early to say the team performs better on the road than at the Huntsman Center, there are some advantages to being the visiting team.
“You don’t have [to think about] your family, your friends, your boyfriend or going to class,” Roberts said. “You can just be about the task at hand.”
Having the home crowd present can be a plus, but with a team that prides itself on being a close unit, Roberts believes being on the road also gives Utah an extra edge.
“There is that together time because you are with your teammates a lot. So sometimes you can kind of lock arms and be more of a tough-minded group on the road,” Roberts said. “I thought we did a really good job of that in Washington and we are going to need to do that heading down to Arizona.”