SALT LAKE CITY — Utah women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts’ postgame demeanor didn’t match the lopsided victory her team earned Wednesday night.
“I’m pleased that we won,” Roberts said after Utah defeated Southern Utah University 69-43 at the Huntsman Center. “That’s the goal anytime you put a uniform on. But I’m not pleased with how we played in that second half. …We didn’t play a complete game. And that frustrates me. If we want to win big games in the Pac-12 we’ve got to put 40 minutes together.”
What bothered Roberts is the difference between her team’s potential and their performance, and nowhere was that point more clearly illustrated than in the contrast between the first half and the second half.
“I thought we did a great job defensively in the first half,” she said. “(SUU) shot four free throws in the first half. We held them to 13 points, and then pretty much played them even in the second half.”
Part of the difference is in what SUU did to change the pace of the game and create a situation that allowed them to compete against Utah’s bigger, more athletic players.
“In the second half, they tried to slow it down, and they did a good job,” Roberts said. “They tried to shorten the game, make the possessions longer, and then we were kind of on our heels.”
The T-birds not only more than doubled their offensive production, but they did so by getting to the free throw line 20 times (versus four in the first half) and earning 10 offensive boards.
“I think we just took our foot off the gas, so we were reacting defensively instead of anticipating,” Roberts said. “The ball is inbounded and then we get into a defensive stance. We weren’t talking as loudly on ball screens. We just weren’t completely, 100 percent dialed in.”
The Utes were led by forward Emily Potter, who had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and guard Malia Nawahine, who scored 16 points and had seven rebounds. They were the only two players on either team to score in double digits.
SUU forward Darri Frandsen led the T-birds with nine points and nine rebounds, while forward Jessica Richardson added 11 rebounds and four points. Center Whitney Johnson finished with seven boards and seven points.
Nawahine said she felt a difference in the energy in the second half.
“It did feel less intense,” she said. “But they slowed it down so we played defense for almost a full shot clock, and then we would foul or they’d get an offensive rebound, and it just kind of takes a toll on you.” Roberts hopes the Utes get to a point where nothing matters but their commitment to what they do well.
“That’s what great teams do,” she said of retaining a sense of urgency when the Utes own a huge lead. “That’s what I told the team at halftime. If we want to be great, and you guys say you want to be great, we talk about being great, that’s what great teams do. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, it doesn’t matter what the score is; you can be up 30 or you can be down 30, you’re going to do what you’re supposed to do. You’re going to be disciplined, and you’re going to do what you’re supposed to do. I’m not angry, but this group has so much potential. I want them to play to their potential.”
Next up for the 6-0 Utes is Utah State on Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center.