Pulling off their second road sweep of Pac-12 play was no easy task for the University of Utah’s women’s basketball team. Utah had to hold off No. 22 ranked Arizona State with a 58-56 comeback win on Friday before sealing the deal against Arizona on Sunday, 80-56. The sweep improved the Utes’ Pac-12 record to 5-3, and their five wins match what the team was able to total in the 2016-17 season. That being said, head coach Lynne Roberts knows her team still has a lot of work to do with over half of their league games left to play.
“I think the fact that we have already won five speaks to the fact that we are better,” Roberts said. “We are just a better team. Our players are doing a great job, but we have to move past the accomplishments of last week and move on to the challenges of this week. I am excited about that. We have a good enough team that we can hang with these guys. We are playing at home and we only get one shot, so we have to be ready to play and it is going to be hard.”
Taking the Hardware
Before this week, Utah only had three players receive the Freshman of the Week award since the team joined the Pac-12, but Tori Williams is now the fourth player to earn the recognition after her performance over the weekend.
Williams came up clutch and played like a seasoned veteran against Arizona State. She secured the win after shooting 4-of-4 from the free throw line with 19 seconds left in the game. Her success continued against Arizona, where she kept the Utes in the lead as she scored five consecutive points in the second quarter.
“She is just confident,” Roberts said. “She isn’t overconfident and she isn’t cocky, she is just confident. We drew that up so that she would get those free throws, and I had no doubt she would make them. We all have that confidence in her because she has that quiet self-confidence about herself. She knows what she is good at and plays to her strengths. I honestly would have bet my house that she was going to make those free throws.”
Fourth Quarter Improvements
A common theme throughout the Utes’ season has been their inability to play with a consistent intensity for 40 minutes, but if last weekend was any indication, the Utes are making strides in this area.
In both games, the Utes began the fourth quarters with runs. Against the Sun Devils, Utah went on an 8-0 run and against the Wildcats, a 7-2 run. Both runs played a role in securing the team’s victories, although the fourth quarter start on Friday was more intense. The team came into the quarter down 11 points, and Utah was able to will themselves back for the victory. Those final 10 minutes of the game was a positive sign for Roberts.
“I remember saying in between the quarters to stop worrying about losing,” Roberts said. “It’s the worst that can happen. Just compete, shoot with confidence. We were getting good shots and needed to keep taking them. … That is what I mean about not buckling, there was just a tenacity to leave it all out on the floor and see if we can come out with a win. We hit shots down the stretch … so we made shots and free throws down the line, and then it was just that fearlessness that triggered that run.”