This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Remember all those nice easy wins the Utah women's basketball team enjoyed in the preseason?
Looks like they may be a thing of the past.
Utah opened its Pac-12 schedule Saturday with a hard fought 73-71 win over Washington State in a contest that could be a sign of things to come in the competitive conference.
Utah (9-3, 1-0) didn't seal the win until the final minute when Danielle Rodriguez scored on a hard-driving layup to make it 72-71 with 38 seconds remaining, to gain the lead back from the Cougars (9-4, 0-2), who led for the first time on a three-pointer from Taylor Edmondson with 1:37 remaining.
After the basket by Rodriguez, teammate Emily Potter came up with a steal and Tanaeya Boclair went 1-for-2 at the line with 14 seconds remaining.
The Cougars called a timeout with nine seconds remaining, but couldn't come up with a winning scheme as the Cougars' Borislava Hristova missed a three-pointer with two seconds to go.
Potter led the Utes with 10 points and 18 rebounds. Paige Crozon had 15 points and five rebounds and Rodriguez finished with 12 points and nine assists.
The win improved Utah's record to 8-0 in the Huntsman Center. The home stand continues with a game against Washington on Monday.
"We want to blow teams out, but to win a close game like that gives us more confidence that we can toughen those games out," Rodriguez said. "There aren't going to be a lot of blowouts in conference, it's going to be tough, and we are just going to try and keep riding that home streak."
Utah led by as many as 13 points, but first-year coach Lynne Roberts said she had a hunch the Cougars would make a run. She was right; the Cougars' defense clamped down in the second half.
Potter went 0 for 4 in the second half as the Cougars keyed on her, but Utah's guard play was strong enough to earn the win.
"They did a nice job, defensively, of making things hard," Roberts said. "We had faced some defensive pressure in the preseason, but not that physical and that is why we turned it over so many times in the post. Credit them they did a nice job and we need to be more prepared for that."
Crucial for the Utes was the perimeter shooting, with Katie Kuklok going 4 of 5 from long range and Crozon scoring 3 of 5.
Rodriguez and Tanaeya Boclair also had some timely threes, punishing Washington State for focusing on Potter.
"We have kids who can shoot," Roberts said. "If teams are going to key on Potter, we have to be able to hit those threes and they did a good job tonight."
R Utah opens the Pac-12 schedule with a win over Washington State for the first time since joining the league in 2011.
• Danielle Rodriguez makes a layup to put the Utes ahead 72-71 with 38 seconds remaining.
• The Utes shoot 9 of 18 from 3-point distance, led by Katie Kuklok's 4-of-5 effort.