Utah dominates Chadron State in exhibition game

By By Liz Frome, Staff Writer

By Liz Frome, Staff Writer

Led by sophomore point guard Janita Badon and senior forward Kalee Whipple, the Utah women’s basketball team came away with an easy 81-40 win over Chadron State in an exhibition game Friday.

Badon, a two-time first-team all-state athlete in high school, started four games last season for the Utes but was expected by the coaching staff to put in some time during the offseason to ensure that her shooting improved for the 2009-2010 schedule.

With the break behind her, Badon came out in the Utes’ first test of the season and proved the hard work had paid off, scoring 17 points, 12 coming before the half.

Prior to Friday’s game, head coach Elaine Elliott said the team had been practicing hard to accommodate personnel changes. Without last year’s senior class on this year’s roster, Elliott said new roles were taking a long time to come together but that she knew Badon would be leading the offense.

“I think everybody saw the amazing progress that (Janita) went through in one year,” Elliott said. “She gets better every day and got better all summer. She has a confidence now that takes time to build. The kids absolutely know this is our point, this is the gal, this is the person who’s gonna bring it and get it done. It’s a good feeling, I’m very happy for her.

She’s very comfortable coming in.”

Senior forwards Whipple and Halie Sawyer also looked comfortable on the hardwood, accounting for 29 of Utah’s points and 28 rebounds.

“I think that me and Halie both have an obligation to lead this team,” Whipple said. “We’re the seniors that have had the most experience, and I think it’s only right that we teach our young freshmen…the style of basketball we play here.”

Responding well to that responsibility, Sawyer managed to accumulate a double-double to start off her senior season, racking up 12 points and 19 boards on the night.

“I hope that every game, we have a different person stepping up,” Sawyer said.

With a strong lead on the Eagles, Utah was given the opportunity to play all 12 available athletes. Making their collegiate debuts were freshmen Iwalani Rodrigues, Rachel Messer, Chelsea Bridgewater, Rita Sitivi, Diana Rolniak and Taryn Wicijowski. Wicijowski also contributed heavily to Utah’s success, starting her college career with 13 points and nine rebounds.

“It’s great to get started on another season,” Elliott said. “We played some new faces tonight and the more chances they have to play, the better they will be.”

Utah State is next up on Utah’s schedule and will host the Utes in Logan on Friday at 7 p.m.

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Mike Mangum/The Daily Utah Chronicle

Senior Kalee Whipple led the Utes with 17 points in their 41-point win over Chadron State in an exhibition game Friday night.