No place like home: No. 3 Utah prevails in home opener as No. 6 Nebraska stumbles out of the box
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As she left the post-meet news conference Friday, Utah freshman gymnast Kristina Baskett was reminded to join her teammates in an autograph session.
Get used to it rookie, after nights like Friday, the lines are only going to get longer.
In her first competition in the Huntsman Center, Baskett won the all-around and led the third-ranked Utes past No. 6 Nebraska 195.75-193.
A veteran at the elite level, Baskett said she'd never experienced an atmosphere like the one in the Huntsman Center, where 12,131 attended the home opener.
"I've never felt that before," she said. "It gave me a lift and gave me a lot to feed off."
Baskett scored a 39.325 to edge her teammate Nicolle Ford, who totaled a 39.275, for the high honors. In doing so, she proved Utah coach Greg Marsden was justified in putting her in the balance beam lineup.
She competed in exhibition on the event a week ago at Washington and scored a 9.9, which would have been the team's high score if it had counted. By leaving her out, Marsden gave Baskett's competitive nature a jolt, and received a chewing out from his wife and assistant coach Megan.
"Even I could figure it out after last week," Marsden said. "She earned it in practice. I told her to challenge herself, and she made it an easy decision."
Baskett scored a 9.725 on the beam after opening with a 9.85 on the vault. She earned a 9.85 on the bars and ended the night with a 9.9 on the floor. Baskett said she wasn't keeping track of the all-around, and acknowledged she was more nervous than usual after
earning her way into the beam lineup.
"I just wanted to have a good meet," she said. "It was a good start. Hopefully I can get better every meet."
Baskett was the highlight in what was Utah's best performance in the early season. The Utes didn't have to count a fall, earned their highest mark of the season, and got a little revenge for last year's loss to the Huskers.
"This was good, especially after the last two meets," Ford said. "We hit some things we've been struggling on. It was a much better performance overall."
Ford was one of the night's top performers despite an injured wrist that has limited her practice time. Friday, she didn't complete a vault in warmups because of the pain.
"It hurts a lot more in practice than it does in meets," she said. "I tend to forget about it in meets."
The possibility of a Nebraska upset slipped away in the first rotation when the Huskers had to count three scores of 9.425 or lower on the uneven bars, one of Nebraska's strong events.
The Huskers recovered and put together solid performances on the floor and vault, but still trailed Utah 146.575-15.125 going into the final rotation.
"Bars were rough, it was just one of those days," Nebraska coach Dan Kendig said. "But it's not what we did in the past I'm concerned about, it's where we go from here on. Hopefully we'll only get stronger."
The Utes are saying the same thing, despite the easy win. His team didn't have to count a fall, but Marsden still sees plenty of room for improvement as several gymnasts had breaks or struggled with upgrades.
At the same time, he noted even the Utes who performed in exhibition hit their routines.
"If we can continue to do that, that is going to help us with depth," he said.
IN SHORT: Utah enjoyed an unexpectedly easy night, defeating No. 6 Nebraska to avenge its loss a year ago.
KEY MOMENT: The usually steady Nebraska Cornhuskers took themselves out of the meet before the fans were even settled in the seats by committing several mistakes on the uneven bars.
KEY STAT: Trailing Nicolle Ford by .25 in the all-around, Kristina Baskett scored a 9.9 on the floor to overtake her teammate for the all-around title.