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Adam Fondren, Deseret News
Utah Utes center Megan Huff (5) is fouled as she shoots over Purdue Boilermakers guard Lamina Cooper (40) as the University of Utah hosts Purdue University at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017.
Her ball-handling skills have now caught up to her athleticism. Her effectiveness and her efficiency are because she can shoot. —Utah head coach Lynne Roberts on Megan Huff

SALT LAKE CITY — Lynne Roberts believes multi-sport athletes have a competitive advantage, and now she has the perfect exhibit with which to prove her case.

Redshirt junior Megan Huff led the Utah women’s basketball team to an 81-68 win over Purdue with an impressive display of offensive versatility that resulted in a game-high 23 points. She also had nine rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

Huff and point guard Erika Bean had some remarkable synchronicity, especially for just the fourth game of the season, connecting on several passes that showed off Bean’s passing ability and Huff’s catch and shoot skills. Roberts credits that to the timing Huff learned by playing volleyball.

“Don’t get me on a soapbox about playing multiple sports, but kids should play more than one sport,” Roberts said. “They really should be well-rounded.”

Huff shrugged off plays as routine and said she wasn’t expecting anything specific from the Boilermakers Monday night.

“In practice we always connect,” Huff said. “I mean, I wasn’t really expecting anything. I was just going in with a clear mind, and whatever happened, happened.”

Huff, who credited her teammates with her success Monday night, accepted a scholarship to Hawaii University and played both volleyball and basketball her freshman year. She chose to quit volleyball to focus on basketball her sophomore year, and then transferred to Utah that summer.

“I really bought into coach Rob’s style of play,” Huff said. “I liked what she wanted to do for the program.”

Redshirting last season allowed her to focus solely on developing basketball skills, even if not competing was a little frustrating.

“Last year was great,” she said. “I tried every day to get better. I mean, I had some tough times, but I overcame things, and I matured a lot as a player and a person.”

Roberts said Huff took full advantage of her redshirt year.

“She was coming as a dual-sport athlete where a lot of times, if you play volleyball and basketball, basketball takes the back seat in terms of skill development,” Roberts said. “So she is pretty raw. …We knew she was a gifted athlete and long and all of those things you see, but her skills were not anywhere close where they are today. She put in an impressive amount of work.”

Huff gained 12 pounds of muscle and developed her skills, especially her ability to shoot.

“Her ball-handling skills have now caught up to her athleticism,” Roberts said. “Her effectiveness and her efficiency are because she can shoot.”

The first quarter was the only one up for grabs, but Utah ended it with a 22-18 lead. The Utes out-rebounded the Boilermakers 39-26, and Bean’s seven assists paced the Utes as they finished with 19 assists to Purdue’s nine assists.

While Huff admitted she’s a more offensively-minded player, Utah got a defensive boost from Daneesha Provo, who also ended up scoring 13 points.

“I came into the game with like an open mind with defense because that’s what gets me going,” Provo said. “The momentum just came. …The defensive intensity, I just let that take over for the most part.”

Roberts said Provo has been consistently reliable off the bench, not just defensively but also offensively.

Freshman guard Tori Williams finished with 15 points, and senior forward Emily Potter added 10 points and six rebounds.

Unlike last season, when Purdue made their runs, Utah had answered.

“That’s what I’m most proud of,” Roberts said. “I think last year we wouldn’t have answered; we would have played a little tight. And that’s the progression of our team and of our program. We’re just getting better. …We just answered the bell.”

Utah plays again on Friday at 3:30 p.m. when Incarnate Word visits the Huntsman Center.