Women’s basketball: Utah wins season opener, 74-64

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The Utah women’s basketball team kicked off its season in a home opener in front of a small, but enthusiastic crowd, and the Utes took down the Montana State Bobcats, 74-64.

“It was the first game of the season, and I saw some things that we did well and a lot of things that we could do better,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “We missed a lot of easy shots that we would normally make, so we have to give credit where it’s due. Montana State played good defense, and they are a good team. At the same time, I’m not too worried, because it was just the first game, and we will get better.”

This season opener was a rematch from the WNIT this past March where the Utes defeated the Bobcats quite handily. Roberts also mentioned that Montana State is well coached, and they will likely be a 20 win team this year.

The game started off on an even keel, with both teams trading buckets in the early going. Eventually, the Utes found themselves up 13-6 near the end of the first quarter. But the last two minutes of the quarter belonged to Montana State. The Bobcats went on a tear, outscoring the home team 12-5 to finish it off, and they tied the score at 18 at the end of one.

The game remained competitive throughout the second and third quarters, with neither team really being able to build a commanding lead over the other. The Bobcats continued to attack the basket consistently, and they got the Utes in foul trouble.

“We had too many turnovers, and they got us to foul them a lot,” Roberts said, “Overall it was a good win, but we are going on the road and playing a really good Fresno State team, so we have to be ready. We only have a couple days to learn from this.”

At the end of the first half, Utah took a four point lead into the locker room, 35-31. The Utes came out aggressive to start the second half, going on a run that saw them go up 49-39 midway through the third. An impressive run made only more so when considering the Utes struggled from downtown. At halftime the Utes were only 2-of-11 from deep.

The Bobcats’ defense was hard to get past in the first half, as the visiting team forced six turnovers, and it had eight blocked shots to go along with three steals.

But the fourth quarter saw the game become more competitive between the two teams. The Utes had a 16 point lead with just over three minutes left in the game, but that lead was cut in half only a minute later. Some clutch plays by the home team, however, sealed the deal as Utah got the win 74-64.

Junior Malia Nawahine was one of the bright spots for the Utes, scoring 19 points.

“I think a lot of the shots I got happened because our team was patient,” Nawahine said. “The other opportunities I got were the result of good play in transition.”

The Utes shot 34 percent from the field and 24 percent from three point range. The Utes won the rebounding battle, but they also had more turnovers than the visiting team. While the Utes struggled to hit shots, they played solid defense, and they forced the grizzlies to shoot 27 percent from the field and 14 percent from downtown.

“We needed to be more aggressive,” said junior forward Emily Potter. “We played them last year in the tournament, and we played them great last time. I think we expected to re-create our last game against them, but they came out strong and played a lot harder than we expected. But it was a good game, and at the end of the day, we are 1-0.”

Up next for the Utes is a road game against Fresno State on Tuesday, Nov. 15. The Utes will return home and face Utah Valley University on Nov. 19.

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@JaredWalch