I am very, very pleased with the effort; the effort and energy were good. —Utah coach Anthony Levrets
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women's basketball team earned a scrappy win in its home-opener Tuesday evening.
The Utes defeated in-state foe Southern Utah University 79-61 in a sloppy game at the Huntsman Center, improving to 2-0 on the young season.
"I am very, very pleased with the effort; the effort and energy were good," coach Anthony Levrets said afterward.
"They're a scrappy basketball team," he added, referring to the Thunderbirds' physical play and the game's 43 total fouls. "They're scrappy. They pressure. They play 11 kids and they come at you in waves and they don't care about fouling. They're going to pressure you for the whole game."
Redshirt junior Taryn Wicijowski played fantastic on the inside, leading the Utes with 20 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field and 10-for-10 shooting from the foul line. She also had 15 rebounds.
"She's a really, really, really good player," Levrets said of the forward. "We've got to get her more than seven shots."
The Utes fed off of Wicijowski throughout the first half but led by just seven points, 35-28, after 20 minutes of play that saw four ties and three lead changes. Utah opened the second half on a 16-0 run over the first 3:10 to grab its largest lead of the game at 23 points, 51-28.
"At halftime, we talked about them having a little momentum and we had to come out like we were down," Wicijowski said of what sparked the run. "We came out with a lot of effort and a lot of energy."
The Thunderbirds (1-1) responded with their own rally late in the game, outscoring Utah 12-2 to close to within nine points with just four minutes left. The Utes responded by going inside and getting to the foul line, hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the final three minutes.
As a team, the Utes grabbed 46 rebounds, 32 of which were on the defensive end, and had 32 points in the paint.
Redshirt senior Iwalani Rodrigues added 20 points on two 3-pointers, and Rachel Messer reached double digits with 10 points. Chelsea Bridgewater, who stands at a generous 6-foot tall, had two momentum-building stuff blocks high in the air in addition to four points and five rebounds.
Marissa Robbins led SUU with 10 points and sophomore forward Marquelle Funk, a Lone Peak High graduate, had five points and five rebounds. Freshman Lori Parkinson, a Cyprus High graduate, got to play in front of a crowd of her old Pirate teammates and had four points and four rebounds.