LAS VEGAS — They were of the two smallest players on the court, but Utah State guards Jennifer Schlott and Devyn Christensen played huge in leading the Aggies to a comfortable 78-65 victory over Denver Wednesday afternoon in the opening round of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at the Orleans Arena.
The Aggies move on to play Friday at 1 p.m. MDT against Idaho, which defeated San Jose State 57-55 earlier Wednesday.
Schlott, a 5-foot-6 junior from Mesa, Ariz., led the way with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Christensen, a 5-6 senior from Caldwell, Idaho, scored 16 points with four 3-pointers. Another Aggie guard, Makenlee Williams, also came up big, adding 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting while Jenna Johnson chipped in 12 points.
In all, it was a hot shooting night for the Aggies had their second-best shooting performance of the season at 54.7 percent from the field, topped only by a 56.5 percent performance over the same Denver team in January.
The Aggies were actually above 60 percent for much of the game before tailing off in the final minutes, going 2 of 9 down the stretch. They also shot 52.0 percent from 3-point range.
USU first-year coach Jerry Finkbeiner was thrilled with his Aggies, particularly how they came out with strong energy to start the game. He said he tried to keep his team on an even keel all season, but want them to show more emotion in the postseason.
"Tonight we were trying to show emotion," he said. "We have a lot left in our tanks and I was really happy with the first five minutes because I wanted to see where this emotion would take it. I was relieved, to tell you the truth at how we played the first five minutes."
The game was pretty much won in those first five minutes when the Aggies raced out to 13-5 lead as Schlott, Christensen and Williams all sank 3-pointers. Later in the half after the Pioneers closed the gap, Schlott scored 10 straight points to stake the Aggies to a 33-18 lead.
"Jen Schlott played a magnificent game," said Finkbeiner.
"My teammates put me in really good positions, and everything was clicking," said Schlott.
After taking a 45-32 halftime lead, the Aggies came out with another fast start in the second half, pushing the lead to 20 by the 15:28 mark and cruised home from there.
Kailey Edwards led Denver with 18 points, while Emiko Smith scored 14 and Theresa Wirth added 11.
GAME NOTES: Before this week, the Aggies were 3-7 in previous postseason tournament games. … One of the game officials was former University of Utah standout Julie Krommenhoek. … The Aggies won the rebound battle 31-30.