If there was ever an excuse to come out flat, the game following the holiday break was it. But Utah looked anything but flat on Tuesday night, as it steamrolled UC Davis 88-58, finishing pre-conference play with an 8-3 record, undefeated at home.
Following a narrow win against Utah State last week, the Utes looked sharp against UC Davis. They shot 51 percent from the field, including a scorching 7-of-12 from beyond the arc, while holding the Aggies to a meager 39 percent from the field.
“We kind of escaped Utah State with a win … We didn’t want that to happen again,” Emily Potter said of her team’s wire-to-wire victory.
The Utes were all smiles after the game, as they close the book on a strong preseason and look forward to conference play.
Potter put up another quietly dominant game with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. The Aggies doubled Potter in the post from the get-go, and the 6-foot-6 Canadian responded well, kicking out to open shooters and going strong to the hoop before UC Davis could bring the double-team.
While Utah held the lead early, UC Davis clawed back at the end of the first half with an 11-2 run, fueled by three straight triples from twin sisters Kourtney and Karley Eaton. Utah’s lead was trimmed to just seven as the first half ended.
After a quiet first half, Dani Rodriguez turned on the jets in the third period with nine points on 4-for-4 shooting in the quarter. She wouldn’t score again, finishing with nine points on 4-of-6 shooting to go with her two assists and three rebounds.
The Utes followed Rodriguez’ suit in the third period, outscoring the Aggies 28-11 in the quarter. The Utes were all energy for the rest of the game as UC Davis failed to reclaim the lead from the very first bucket of the game.
Katie Kuklok tied her season-high with 15 points off the bench on a perfect shooting night from the field, including knocking down three from deep.
“My teammates found me when I was open. I’m just thankful I was able to get them assists,” Kuklok said.
Kuklok scored in a variety of ways against the Aggies, draining shots from beyond the arc and driving into the lane off of a quick pump fake.
“She’s one of the best shooters I’ve ever been around, so I’m always trying to figure out ways through the course of a game to get her shots,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts.
Utah closes out non-conference play with an 8-3 record, its best start to a season since 2012-13. While Roberts is more concerned with game-to-game improvement and laying the foundation of her philosophy than she is with wins, she admitted her pleasure in her team’s early success.
“I really don’t like focusing on the number of wins. I try not to do it,” Roberts said. “When we started the season I didn’t say, ‘I want to go 8-3 preseason.’ But, if you were to say we’d be 8-3 [before the season started], I’d say that’d be pretty awesome.”
While Utah is pleased with its hot start, it knows the road ahead will be its greatest challenge yet. The Utes sit in the eleventh spot in the Pac-12, tied with UCLA. They will look to see just how real their early season success is when they match up against Washington State this Saturday in their first conference game.
Tip off will be at 5 p.m. MST as Utah will look to remain undefeated in the Huntsman Center and open 2016 with a win.