How we played in the third and fourth quarter, that’s how we can play. That’s what we want to do every time we step on the court. —Utah senior Emily Potter
SALT LAKE CITY — It was a tale of two halves for the University of Utah women’s basketball team (17-10, 8-8) in its 81-46 victory over the Washington Huskies (7-20, 1-15) Sunday afternoon at the Huntsman Center.
The first half was littered with Utah turnovers, allowing the last-place Huskies to keep it close.
The second half was all Utah as the Utes got the victory for their seniors in their home finale.
According to senior Emily Potter, who finished with an 18-point, 16-rebound double-double, the Huskies’ defensive energy was troublesome to start the game, but the Utes finished the game on a strong note.
“How we played in the third and fourth quarter, that’s how we can play. That’s what we want to do every time we step on the court.”
Despite a large shooting percentage differential in the opening quarter, the Utes led just 15-10 at the end of the period. Utah committed seven turnovers in the quarter, allowing eight points off the miscues.
The rim closed up for Utah in the second as the Utes managed just nine points on 3-of-9 shooting. For nearly six minutes, the Utes’ offense was held scoreless as the two teams went back and forth, exchanging the lead four times. Even though the Utes committed 13 turnovers in the half, allowing 12 points off the errors, they took a 24-23 lead into the break.
“We just weren’t playing with any sort of passion or enthusiasm,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “We were trying to make home run plays. I don’t know what we were doing.”
The Utes looked like a completely different team to open the second half, breaking the game open by outscoring Washington 37-6. At one point, the Utes made nine straight field goals to more than double their score in that quarter alone. From the field in the third, they shot 14 for 18, including 5 for 5 from 3-point land. Perhaps most impressive, they committed just one turnover during the scoring onslaught. By the time the quarter ended, the Utes held a commanding 61-29 lead.
“We regrouped,” explained Roberts. “I thought we did a really good job in the third quarter, we weren’t fouling, we weren’t turning it over and that allowed the game to be more up-tempo and we were able to blow it open there.”
Freshman Tori Williams was especially hot for the Utes, scoring a career-high 29 points on 11-of-13 shooting, including 7 of 9 from beyond the arc.
“I just knew my teammates had confidence in me and I knew it was Senior Night, so I knew the seniors had to have a good night to end and play the last time at the Huntsman Center,” said Williams.
In the final quarter, Utah coasted to the victory while continuing to take care of the basketball. In the second half, the Utes committed just four turnovers. Unfortunately for Utah, leading scorer Megan Huff went down with an sprained ankle in the final minute of action. Roberts said she wasn’t certain of the extent of the injury, or whether Huff will miss any time.
Following the contest, the Utes honored their four departing seniors, Emily Potter, Tanaeya BoClair, Tilar Clark and Wendy Anae. For Roberts, getting the victory on Senior Day was especially sweet.
“It’s great. It’s really nice. I’m proud of those seniors. They’ve had a great impact on the program. I always tell the players that how you know if you’ve done your job is if you leave the program in better shape than you found it. They have.”
The Utes will next travel to Los Angeles to face USC Thursday night and then UCLA in the regular season finale Saturday afternoon. The Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament will tip off March 1 at Key Arena in Seattle.