Women’s Basketball: Potter Leads Team in Defense, Crozon in Shooting

Sophomore+Tanaeya+Boclair+%2832%29+drives+against+the+Fort+Louis+defense+in+an+exhibition+game+at+the+Huntsman+center+on+6+Nov+2015.+Photo+credit%3A+Dane+Goodwin

Dane Goodwin

Sophomore Tanaeya Boclair (32) drives against the Fort Louis defense in an exhibition game at the Huntsman center on 6 Nov 2015. Photo credit: Dane Goodwin

Through three non-conference games, the Utes have been trying to turn up the pressure on defense — and it’s working.

The Utes were third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense last year, all without Emily Potter, who watched the 2014-15 season from the sidelines with a torn ACL. So far in the 2015-16 season, the Utes have held all opponents, including two strong offensive teams (South Dakota and Lamar were both in the top three of their conferences in scoring offense last year) under 32 percent shooting. Add an elite shot blocker in Potter to the mix, and the result is something like what Lamar did in the second quarter of last Tuesday night’s game: 2-of-12 shooting in the paint.

Head coach Lynne Roberts has continually cited defensive communication as an area of focus for this team and was pleased with the improvement the team has showed through three games.

“I think we did a great job defensively,” Roberts said.

After three games, Potter sits in third place in total blocked shots in the NCAA with 13. She is just behind Jasmine Joyner, a junior from Chatanooga, who leads the league in blocks with 21.

On the Pac-12

No. 7 Oregon State, No. 13 Stanford and Arizona State and Cal (tied for No. 16) top the conference as the only nationally ranked teams. Oregon State is the clear leader of the Pac-12, as the Beavers are beating their opponents by an average margin of 55 points thus far.

Free Throws

Utah ranks second in the Pac-12 in free-throw shooting percentage, shooting from the stripe at 81 percent. Roberts has made it a routine to end practice each day by lining up her team along the baseline and selecting one shooter to take two free-throws. If the shooter misses, the entire team has to run sprints, but if she makes both, then practice is concluded for the day.

It’s clear that practice is paying dividends. When Utah went up against Lamar, they were 21-of-23 from the line.

Crozon’s Play

Paige Crozon is third among starters in three-point field goals attempted and is currently shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc, the best of the team. Her ability to stretch the floor at the forward spot unlocks a lot of what Utah tries to do on offense.

Potter is going to be the first option for this team almost every night due to her size and skill around the basket. Having Crozon spotting up behind the three-point line and pulling potential help defenders away from the hoop is one big reason Potter is shooting 62 percent from the floor this season.

For many teams, playing a four-out, spread offense that stretches the floor can be hazardous on the defensive end as they risk giving up size and potential matchup advantages to their opponents, but Utah does not have to worry about this. Crozon, at 6-foot-one, can both spread the floor and collide with big bodies on the defensive end.

“Paige is a stud,” Roberts said. “She’s a great player. We talk about her job as to rebound and knock down the kick out threes, and she did that.”

Utah travels to Freeport, Bahamas this week where they will face Boston College and No. 21 Oklahoma, its first nationally ranked opponent of the season.

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