After a win over Pac-12 rival Colorado put the Utes back on the winning track, the University of Utah women’s basketball team looks to keep up its winning ways against the University of Washington. Beating the Huskies won’t be an easy task, however, as Washington boasts Kelsey Plum, the nation’s leading scorer, and Chantel Osahor, the nation’s leading rebounder.
“It never stops — every week you have a ranked opponent,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “They have arguably the best player in college basketball with [Plum]. She’s the all-time leading scorer in the Pac-12 —men or women — and there’s still eight games left. They’ll get up and down the floor and score their points, but we’re excited about this game. We get to compete against some of the best players at home.”
At home is where the Utes perform best, and they’ll look to utilize their home court advantage. While Utah has struggled on the road this season, posting a 4-4 mark, the team has had much better luck at home, where it has compiled a 9-3 record on the season.
The Huskies come into the Huntsman Center ranked as the No. 10 team in the nation, and with good reason. They outscore opposing teams by 24.7 points per game.
While the Utes split the season series against Colorado this past week, Roberts was not happy with how the team played on the road against the Buffaloes. Roberts made a change to the starting lineup, and she liked the results she saw.
“We had lost a couple in a row and I didn’t like the way we were playing,” Roberts said. “We weren’t playing Utah basketball and the way I want our team to play. I decided to shake it up a bit and we got the win— and I thought we played better and more cohesive. I don’t know if that was from the starting lineup or not.”
Junior wing Malia Nawahine and the Utes are going to focus on stopping players other than Plum so she’s forced to take on a heavier workload.
“Everyone knows that [Plum] is their best player, and she’s going to get her points,”Nawahine said. “I think we need to focus on not letting other players get going and being able to score ourselves and play our game will help us win.”
The Utes may just have an advantage against Washington’s scoring attack. The Huskies sit atop the conference in scoring offense at 86.6 points per game, while the Utes rank near the top of the Pac-12 scoring defense at 61.5 points per game. Washington shoots the three-point shot well, connecting on 40 percent of their attempts. However, the Utes allow team to shoot just 27 percent from beyond the arc. The Utes also lead the conference in blocked shots per game at six.
Tip off begins tonight at 8 p.m. at the Huntsman center. After Friday night’s game, Utah will take on a visiting Washington State squad on Sunday at noon.