At this point, it’s February 16th, it’s about just finding a way and moving on. —Utah head coach Lynne Roberts
SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah women’s basketball team bewitched Washington State with strong post play en route to a 54-50 victory over the Cougars Friday night at the Huntsman Center. It was Harry Potter Night at the arena, and Emily Potter — no relation to the fictional wizard prodigy — was magical in her second-to-last home game as a Ute, finishing with 16 points and seven rebounds.
It was a contest of contrasting styles in the Utes’ penultimate home game. Utah dominated the inside game, outscoring Washington State 32-14 in the paint. The Cougars, to their credit, controlled the perimeter, scoring on seven 3-pointers, as opposed to two by Utah.
“I was confident in our post play," said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts. "I thought that that was where we could win it. I think going in, the stuff we worked on was trying to get our post involved.”
Despite outshooting the Cougars by a large margin in the first quarter, the Utes led just 18-10 after the first quarter. Potter led the way in the opening period with eight points on perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the field and a pair of free throws. Leading scorer Megan Huff also turned in a strong first quarter with six points on 3-for-5 shooting.
“I thought Potter set the tone for us in that first quarter,” said Roberts. “She had one of the best starts to a game that she’s had in a really long time. That was great to see.”
Utah suffered a drought to open the second quarter, failing to score until the 6:43 mark. Potter and Huff were both held scoreless for the entire period. Meanwhile, the Cougars were heating up, hitting on 5-of-7 shots from 3-point land. And yet, the Utes managed to hold the lead for the entire quarter and took a 31-25 lead into the break, with help from a buzzer-beating lay-in by Erika Bean.
“We kind of got away from the game plan, they hit six (3-pointers) in the first half, which is poor for us, good for them,” said Roberts.
Both teams continued to struggle in the third. Utah put up just nine points in the quarter, but the Cougars failed to take advantage of the slow play. Going into the final period, the Utes held a 40-37 lead.
Washington State nearly stole the lead on several occasions in the final quarter, trailing by just one at several points. Still, the Utes held tough and kept control of the game thanks to crucial made free throws in crunch time.
The win was 50th career victory at Utah for Roberts, who had no idea that she had reached the milestone.
“That’s great,” said Roberts, who is in her third season as head coach. “I’m happy we won. It feels good to get win 16 this year and to win at home.”
Roberts admitted that the victory "wasn’t pretty, but who cares."
“At this point, it’s February 16th, it’s about just finding a way and moving on.”
The Utes will next face Washington Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Huntsman Center. Following the game, the team will honor their four departing seniors: Potter, Tanaeya BoClair, Tilar Clark and Wendy Anae for Senior Night.
For Potter, it’s going to be an emotional game.
“It feels weird,” said Potter, Utah’s all-time leader in blocked shots. “I’ve been here for a while, it’s my fifth year here. I’m excited to play in the Huntsman for the last time.”