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Utah's 'great team effort' begins with Utah County native playing to avenge last year's loss to BYU

SALT LAKE CITY — Malia Nawahine had a little extra motivation in helping Utah avenge last year’s loss to BYU.

“Last game, she shut me down,” said the Springville grad after Utah walloped BYU 77-60 at the Huntsman Center Saturday night. “So I kind of had a chip on my shoulder to do that.”

Utah head coach Lynne Roberts leaned forward in the postgame press conference, looked at the junior guard and said, “Well done.”

In fact, she credited Nawahine for giving Utah’s offense a boost of confidence when the game was tight.

Nawahine hit a 3-pointer at 6:09 in the second quarter, after which center Emily Potter made one of two free throws to tie the game at 22. On the ensuing possession, BYU’s Makenzi Pulsipher hit a 3-pointer, and Nawahine answered with a 3-pointer to keep the game tied at 25.

“That kind of got the nerves out,” Roberts said. “BYU came to play, and we knew they would. They’re very, very good. The first quarter is always when everybody’s execution is on point. And they were running their stuff and hitting shots. They were ready to roll. (Nawahine’s threes) kind of took the lid off a little bit, took the pressure off. When she hit those, it was like, ‘Ok, here we go.’”

And after the halftime break, that is exactly what happened. Potter summed up the shift best.

“Everyone was hitting threes from everywhere, so it made my job a lot easier,” Potter said.

Utah was led by Potter, who finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and three assists. Nawahine scored 16 points, while Paige Crozon added 13 points and Tanaeya Boclair finished with 15 points. BYU was led by Cassie Broadhead, who scored 22 points, while the only other player in double figures was Kalani Purcell, who scored 15 points and earned five steals.

Roberts called the victory “a great team win” that was spurred by their defense.

“We’ve been winning this year because of our defense,” Roberts said. “It was just a great team effort. … BYU sets 101 screens on every possession, and it’s hard work. You’ve got to be tough to defend them.”

She pointed out that Utah’s field goal percentage was 48 percent, while BYU’s was 34.4 percent. Utah also had 16 assists to the Cougars’ nine, but the biggest difference was Utah out-rebounding BYU 49-29.

BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said the loss was especially painful because of the way BYU played in the second half.

“We got out-played, out-toughed,” he said. “They just wanted it a lot more than us tonight, especially in that third quarter.”

In the third quarter, Utah outscored BYU 27-7, and the Utes held BYU scoreless until 5:14, when Broadhead hit a free throw.

“We just came out really flat,” Judkins said. “They took it to us, and we kind of buckled. As a coach, you never want to lose. But if you lose, you don’t want to lose by getting out-competed and out-hustled. That’s what happened tonight, by far.”

Utah’s offense also tried to confuse the usually reliable BYU defense.

“We tried to make them move a little bit defensively before we tried to score,” Roberts said. “I think that was effective. … It’s just a great team win; it feels good.”

Especially for the Springville alum who helped turn the game’s momentum.

“It’s awesome,” she said, and then jokingly added, “I’m more happy than everyone else.”

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports