Utah Women’s Basketball Set to Host Washington Schools

University+of+Utah+women%27s+basketball+player%2C+PEYTON+MCFARLAND+%28%2342%29%2C+celebrates+a+field+goal+with+her+teammate+in+the+game+against+Montana+State+University+on+Dec.+11%2C+2020+in+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City.+%28Photo+by+Jack+Gambassi+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

University of Utah women’s basketball player, PEYTON MCFARLAND (#42), celebrates a field goal with her teammate in the game against Montana State University on Dec. 11, 2020 in the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Eric Jensen, Sports Writer

 

After the long holiday break, the Utah Utes will resume their season this coming weekend with games against Washington State (New Year’s Day) and Washington (Jan. 3). The beginning of the season has been less than ideal for the Utes. Outside of an upset win over No. 15 Oregon State, the Utes have not won a single Pac-12 game.

For head coach Lynne Roberts, the goal this year was to be a top-half team and the Utes simply have not been that. There have been outliers like a 42-point loss to Oregon, but the losses the Utes have faced have largely come against lower-tier Pac-12 teams.

Part of the issue is shooting (you can find all the stats I reference today here) as the Utes have shot only 36 percent from the field to start the season.

For any basketball team, that simply won’t cut it. Roberts has attributed the lack of shooting success to the fact teams have played more physically against the Utes this year. Roberts referenced this while talking about guard Brynna Maxwell’s recent struggles after the Arizona State game.

“Yeah, but that’s what happened in Colorado too. So it’s something she needs to learn from because it is going to continue to happen, she’s got to muscle up and buckle up. She got some pressure today, and she just didn’t make shots that she normally does,” Roberts said.

The Utes three-point percentage has been bad as well, 28 percent, a number that doesn’t stick out a ton until you realize just how many threes Utah shoots. The team has posted 144 triples this season. That averages out to about 24 shots per game. Considering the Utes average around 59 shots per game, that’s just under half of their shots.

In recent games, The Utes have started to shift away from the three a bit though, and specifically get their paint players involved. Freshman Peyton McFarland is coming off her first career double-double for Utah, posting 11 rebounds and 10 points.

McFarland has looked unstoppable rebounding the basketball at times this year. At 6’4, she is often the tallest player and an incredible athlete. The only potential knock on her might be her lack of muscle, but that will come as the freshman gets more time in the weight room. It is hard not to look at McFarland and say, here is a player that has a shot of making it to the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Brynna Maxwell has struggled to get out of the low teens in terms of scoring since her 34 point offensive explosion against the Oregon State Beavers. That said, the ball isn’t coming to her much. It’s a long season full of ups and downs, but Utah needs their leading scorer from a year ago to get back on track if they want to get back to a .500 record.

A two-game deficit isn’t a huge margin, but the Utes can’t afford to continue to lose games back to back. The schedule softens a bit to begin January, but then comes the stretch that could potentially bury Utah’s chances of being a top-six team in the conference.

Within the span of three weeks, starting on Jan. 15, the Utes will play powerhouse Stanford, the current number one team in the nation. They will then play Arizona, ranked sixth in the country, and both Oregon teams, the Ducks ranking eighth in the nation and the Beavers receiving votes.

The Utes are by no means out of it, but one has a hard time seeing how they have a winning record this year if they don’t take care of business against the two Washington schools that have started a combined 8-4.

Scouting Reports

Washington State: A team competing above its preseason ranking. Expected to finish last in the Pac-12, the Cougars have beaten Oregon State and nearly toppled Oregon losing 69-65. The team is led by Charlisse Leger-Walker, who is currently averaging 18 points per game. 2020-21 Women’s Basketball Cumulative Statistics – Washington State University Athletics (wsucougars.com)

Washington: A 4-3 team much closer to the Utes, it seems. Coming off a blowout loss against Oregon. Lead by Tameiya Sadler who is averaging 14 points per game. 2020-21 Women’s Basketball Cumulative Statistics – University of Washington Athletics (gohuskies.com)

Where to Watch?

You can listen to both games on ESPN 700. Utah vs Washington State tips at Noon MST Friday, Jan. 1 and Washington will tip-off at 2 p.m. MST Sunday, Jan. 3. you can watch the Washington game on Pac-12 networks. Washington State TV information has yet to be announced.

 

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@Eric18utah