USU women's basketball: USU has high hopes for new coach, faster tempo
College basketball • Despite personnel changes, Aggies still favored to win WAC.
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Logan • Devyn Christensen knows she has to pick up the pace for the Utah State women's basketball team.

Not just because she's now a senior. Not just because the guard was picked as the WAC preseason player of the year.

Mostly because with a new coach and a new system, the Aggies need Christensen to play up to speed.

"It's going to be very different," Christensen says. "Our last offense was really structured around working the ball around. In this offense, if you have a shot, you take it."

The Aggies' new coach, Jerry Finkbeiner, has instituted a new way to play that served him well at Oral Roberts. Utah State will push the tempo instead of eating up clock, which means more early shots, more full-court press and, hopefully, a lot more points.

There was a rough reality check for the team after reaching its first-ever 20-win season when Raegan Pebley left the program to coach Fresno State.

But Finkbeiner's arrival has brought some new faith for Utah State, which was voted the preseason No. 1 team in the WAC. Finkbeiner is still adjusting to the personnel and working in a new program for the first time in 16 years. But he's been to the NCAA Tournament, where the Aggies hope to be this year.

"We're athletic as a whole, and we want to use that," Finkbeiner says. "We're still making it all fit together, but I think the girls are excited that I've been there, and we want to win the WAC in our last season there."

Christensen is the returning leader, coming off a season when she averaged 15 points per game and was a deep threat for the Aggies. Other returning meaningful contributors include Jennifer Schlott, Jenna Johnson and Elise Nelson.

But a lot of the faces are new: Freshmen include Makenlee Williams, who may be a starter, Stephanie Bairstow and Haylee Thompson. The team was hoping for more size than they have, but it appears 6-foot-6 Banna Diop will not be medically eligible and 6-foot-6 transfer Tanja Steed is not yet back from surgery.

That will make for a difficult nonconference schedule, with eight of their first nine games away from home. That includes incredibly difficult games at Utah, BYU and Notre Dame. —

Utah State schedule

Monday • at Utah Valley, 7 p.m.

Nov. 15 • at UC Riverside, 5 p.m

Nov. 17 • at Loyola Marymount, 3 p.m.

Nov. 20 • vs. Prairie View A&M @ Anchorage, Alaska 8 p.m.

Nov. 21 • vs. NDSU/Alaska-Anchorage @ Anchorage, Alaska 4:30/7 p.m.

Nov. 27 • at Utah, 7 p.m.

Dec. 1 • Montana State, 2 p.m.

Dec. 4 • at BYU, 7 p.m.

Dec. 8 • at Notre Dame, 10 a.m.

Dec. 18 • UC Irvine, 7 p.m.

Dec. 20 • South Dakota, 12 p.m.

Dec. 29 • UTSA, 7 p.m.

Dec. 31 • Texas State, 7 p.m.

Jan. 3 • at Seattle, 8 p.m.

Jan. 5 • at Idaho, 3 p.m.

Jan. 12 • at San Jose St., 3 p.m.

Jan. 17 • New Mexico State, 7 p.m.

Jan. 19 • Denver, 7 p.m.

Jan. 24 • at UT-Arlington,6 p.m.

Jan. 26 • at Louisiana Tech, 6 p.m.

Jan. 31 • Idaho, 7 p.m.

Feb. 2 • Seattle, 7 p.m.

Feb. 9 • San Jose State, 7 p.m.

Feb. 14 • at Denver, 7 p.m.

Feb. 16 • at New Mexico, 7 p.m.

Feb. 28 • Louisiana Tech, 7 p.m.

March 2 • UT Arlington, 7 p.m.

March 7 • at Texas State, 5:30 p.m.

March 9 • at UTSA, 6 p.m.

March 13-16 • WAC Tournament, Las Vegas, TBA