SALT LAKE CITY — Dani Rodriguez could worry and wonder what might have been in the wake of last weekend’s losses.
Instead, she’s going to use the frustration she feels about how the Utah women’s basketball team let the Oregon State game slip away and then wasted an opportunity against Oregon as motivation for the next two teams visiting the Huntsman Center — USC and UCLA.
“Anytime you have situations like that, it’s a little bit frustrating,” said the senior point guard. “You tend to hang onto those more. We had already taken down a top 25 team, and we have the potential to beat teams like that, especially on our home court. It’s still a little frustrating knowing how close we were against Oregon State. But we can use this as fuel. We can hang with these teams. We’ve just got to do it for 40 minutes. And that’s part of learning how to win.” Rodriguez said she doesn’t know exactly why Utah came out flat against Oregon after nearly battling back to upset Oregon State two days earlier. But she’s also not worried about it.
“Sometimes you have bumps in the road,” she said. “We don’t want to get those kinds of bumps in the road but we’re just looking forward to improving, fixing those things.”
Utah head coach Lynne Roberts didn’t spend a lot of time trying to analyze why the team had such a slow start against Oregon.
“We talked about being ready to go at the start of games, on players and coaches, whatever our job is, just be ready to go.”
Roberts said part of the issue may have been their recent success.
"We just said, 'Let’s get back to playing without any expectation or fear,’” Roberts said. "I think that’s when we were playing our best. When you're learning how to win, you can’t think about winning, as weird as that sounds. You’ve just got to worry about improving and playing and competing, that kind of thing. I think they're getting that."
UTES LOVE NAIL-BITERS
On games decided by five points or less, Utah is 6-0.
There is something to be said for getting off to a solid start as Utah is also 7-0 when leading or tied at halftime.
Roberts said the increase in fan support has been a real boost to the team.
“The attendance and the atmosphere have incrementally been getting better and better,” she said. “It’s really fun to see. I know I speak for my players when I say that it makes a difference, it really does. The Blackout Game against Oregon State, in particular, was a fantastic environment. There were a lot of people there and they brought some energy to the Huntsman Center, they weren’t just quiet fans sitting there. They were into it, which was fun.”
Friday's game is the Ute Proud game as the Utes take on USC. The first 250 fans in attendance will get a Ute Proud flag.
Friday's game is also Youth Night. There will be activities for kids on the concourse and, as always, children 12 and under get free admission.
COACH’S SHOW SUCCESS
Roberts’ first coach’s show was a huge success with more than 150 people attending the event at The Club at 50 West on Monday night at 7 p.m. It can be heard on ESPN 700.
“(The attendance) speaks to everyone getting behind what we’re trying to do,” Roberts said. “We’ve been having the Coach’s Show every Monday night in studio and those have been really fun. We’ve had different players on the show, and it’s been good for brand awareness. The show is right after the Larry Krystkowiak Coach’s Show on Monday night, and I’ve had a lot of feedback from people in the community, which is fantastic.”