Tom Smart, Deseret Morning News
Provo's Vanna Cox passes past Murray's Amy Murakami on Tuesday in Murray. Provo improved on its earlier weaknesses, winning 48-36.

MURRAY — For most coaches, the preseason is more about their teams improving than it is about earning wins.

Provo coach Cory Green got both Tuesday night as the Bulldogs improved on the very things they didn't do well last week while earning a 48-36 win over Murray.

"Rebounding and free throws were the two things that really hurt us in the Pleasant Grove game," he said. "That's all we worked on in practice, and it paid off. ... If you can control the glass and make your foul shots, you have a pretty good chance against most opponents."

The Bulldogs got off to a bit of a slow start, but Green asked his players to press against Murray in the second quarter, and the result was a momentum shift that Provo never relinquished.

"I think our press jump-starts our offense," he said. "More from an intensity standpoint than anything."

He said he's wanted to run a full-court press, but this is the first year he's been able to do so.

"We have the personnel to allow us to do it," he said. Key in that press are guards Vanna Cox and Ashley Kuchar, who are not only quick, but they are both good passers.

Murray struggled with the press, turning the ball over or rushing shots when they managed to get downcourt. The pressure led to a 20-4 quarter.

"I think varsity basketball is different than JV," said Murray coach Isacchar Beh, who took over duties last spring. "We have just one returning varsity player, and that's Shay (Kennedy). Provo is a good team; they're a playoff team. I think we were a little bit surprised at how much more aggressive varsity basketball is. But rest assured, Murray will be back and ready not just to deal with that but to offer that kind of pressure as well."

The Spartans were led by Kennedy, a senior forward, who finished with six points, while senior forward Christy Beck added 11 points. Beck also played well defensively, as did Michela Hartlauer, a senior guard who came off the bench to give the Spartans a spark in the third quarter.

Provo was led by senior guard Ethline Fa'atoafe, who had 11 points and three rebounds. Sara Heaton added 14 points and four rebounds, while Kelsey Nelson finished with seven points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

"I'm really pleased with how the girls are playing," said Green. "They're executing pretty well at both ends."