Washington came into the Huntsman Center 0-2 in its last two games against Utah. The Huskies were poised to break that streak this time, however, sitting atop the Pac-12 conference in total wins and piloted by leading scorer in the country Kelsey Plum at 27 points per game.
But behind a 24-point, 10-rebound performance from Paige Crozon, Utah pulled through with the upset in Salt Lake City 88-83 over the Huskies in what is becoming a not-so-surprising season for the ball club. With the win, the Utes are now 10-3 on the season, including a perfect 9-0 in the Huntsman Center.
“I’m proud of our team. That was a great program win in terms of continuing to build that confidence that we can compete,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts.
Helping Crozon was Malia Nawahine, who finished with 17 points and two assists, and Emily Potter, who nearly registered a second Ute double-double with 16 points and nine boards.
Utah opened the game with one agenda — keep the ball out of Plum’s hands. The Utes pressured the junior guard, trapping and doubling her every time she touched the ball. The game plan seemed to be working for Utah, as it led the Huskies 18-11 at the end of the first quarter, with Plum shooting just 2-of-6 from the field.
But the Huskies found offense elsewhere in the second quarter, namely from Washington center Chantel Oosahor, who had 12 points in the second quarter alone, including two three-pointers.
As the final minutes of the second period wound down, Crozon answered a 9-3 Husky run with a bucket at the horn to tie the game 37-all at the half. That layup was Crozon’s second field goal of the game at that point, going into the break just 2-for-10 from the floor.
Following the tough shooting half, Crozon came out in the third period with poise, scoring 11 in that period alone.
“Coach [Roberts] told me at halftime that I had a mismatch offensively, so we set attack there because I had [Osahor] on me,” Crozon said. “Potter was demanding a lot of attention, as she always does, and Malia [Nawahine] and Dani [Rodriguez] kept knocking down shots, so it opened up lanes for me.”
After the high-scoring third period, both teams remained tied at 66 points apiece heading into the fourth.
Foul trouble plagued the Utes in the fourth quarter, as both Utah players Potter and Nawahine played with four fouls for the majority of the final period. Regardless of the tightly-officiated game, Nawahine bull-dogged the Huskies defensively, poking balls loose and faceguarding Plum.
“Malia is feisty, she is fearless, and that’s what we need her to be,” Roberts said.
As the final minutes of the fourth period ticked away, with the score tied at 77-77, Rodriguez came up with a colossal defensive play, stripping Plum on a drive to the basket and pushing the ball in transition. She then assisted Crozon at the hoop on the other end, earning a 79-77 advantage for Utah.
Washington wouldn’t regain the lead again following that swing of momentum, as the final minutes turned into a free-throw shooting competition. Despite a poor shooting night from the field, Utah wing Katie Kuklok sealed the Utah victory, going 5-for-6 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
“[I’m] not trying to think a whole lot, to be honest — just go up there [to the foul line] and focus and hope they go in, and kind of seal the game,” Kuklok said.
Washington finished the game shooting 41 percent from the floor, despite 35 points from Plum, while Utah remains undefeated both in conference play and in the Huntsman Center.
The Utes will now prepare for a four-game road trip starting at 11th-ranked Stanford this Friday at 7 p.m. MST.