Utah Women’s Basketball to Host Nevada



University of Utah Utes Women’s Basketball Team Guard Dru Gylten (10) battles to score during an NCAA Basketball match vs. the Eastern Washington Eagles at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Adam Cochran, Sports Writer

The University of Utah women’s basketball team (5-3, 0-0 Pac-12) welcomes in the Nevada Wolfpack (5-3, 0-1 Mountain West) to the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Saturday, Dec. 14. The Utes are currently on a five-game winning streak.


Previewing the Utes

The Utes provided a dominant first half performance last time out. Their hot shooting led to a 21 point halftime lead. The 3-point shot has been a major factor for the Utes this season. They have made 73 on the year, averaging 9.1 made 3-point field goals per game. As a team, the Utes shoot 37.4% from beyond the arc. The Utes boast four players averaging more than 40% from beyond the arc — Ola Makurat (57.9%), Julie Brosseau (45%), Niyah Becker (44.4%) and Brynna Maxwell (43.1%).

Utah has also been taking better care of the ball during their win streak. With the exception of a 26 turnover performance in the win against Texas Southern, the Utes have been averaging 11.3 turnovers in the other four wins.

The Utes are led in scoring by a duo of freshmen — Maxwell and Lola Pendande. Maxwell and Pendande are the only Utes averaging double figures in a balanced Utah offense. Maxwell leads the team, scoring 14 points per game, to go along with her four rebounds per game. She also leads the Utes in 3-point field goals made with 25, for an average of 3.1 per game.

Pendande scores an average of 11.3 points per game, with a field goal percentage of 66.1%, good enough for second best in the Pac-12. She also leads to Utes in rebounding and blocks, pulling down 5.8 rebounds and providing 1.1 blocks per game. Pendande is also one of three Utes to average more than one steal per game, taking it away 1.1 times per game. Dru Gylten leads the Utes with 4.8 assists per game. Gylten also leads the team in steals, tied with Becker at 1.5 per game.


Previewing the Wolfpack

Nevada is a team established around defense. The Wolfpack force, on average, 18.8 turnovers per game, which contributes 17.4 points off those turnovers to their offensive effort. 9.3 of those turnovers, approximately half, are forced in the form of steals.

Nevada, like Utah, has a balanced offensive attack with two players averaging double figures in points. Imani Lacey leads the Wolfpack with 13.3 points per game. The 6-foot forward does most of her damage inside, with another large portion of her points coming at the free throw line. Lacey is an aggressive defender as well, averaging 1.5 blocks per game. She has been in some foul trouble at times this season, fouling out once and finishing with four fouls on three occasions.

Essence Booker is the next leading scorer for Nevada, averaging 12.8 points per game. Booker is an efficient 3-point shooter, shooting 42.9% on the year. She makes 1.5 3 point field goals per game, which leads the team. Booker is also an extremely good free throw shooter, only missing once so far this season, shooting 94.7%.


Keys to the Game

Stay out of Foul Trouble

As stated above, free throws are an important part of the how Nevada scores. Their top two scorers are good free throw shooters and hope to get to the line as a part of their scoring. As a team, they shoot 14.6 free throws per game and make 70% of those attempts. Whether the Utes can stay out of foul trouble, minimizing the free throws Nevada attempts, should be a good bearing on how this game will go for the Utes.


Take Care of the Ball

The Wolfpack thrive on forcing their opponents into mistakes and capitalizing on those mistakes. The Utes at times this season have been subject to making poor decisions and turning the ball over. The Utes need to play as they have during the win streak, limiting the turnovers and taking care of the ball. The Wolfpack score 17.4 points off turnovers. If the Utes can cut that in half, they should be able to win this game.


Capitalize on the Size Advantage

Once again, the Utes have a major size advantage. While it didn’t manifest itself in the form of a major rebounding advantage for the Utes against Oral Roberts, the size advantage contributed significantly to the scoring the Utes did on the inside. The size advantage on defense also proved too much for Oral Roberts to handle. The Golden Eagles struggled to get anything going in the paint. Look for the Utes to again use the advantage on both sides of the floor to win this game.


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