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Utah women grind out a win against Utah State

FILE: Utah Utes guard Paige Crozon (14) dribbles during a women's basketball game against USC at the Huntsman Center earlier this year. Crozon led the Utes with 15 points against USU on Saturday.
FILE: Utah Utes guard Paige Crozon (14) dribbles during a women's basketball game against USC at the Huntsman Center earlier this year. Crozon led the Utes with 15 points against USU on Saturday.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It wasn’t the prettiest victory.

But there is something beautiful about finding a way to win, especially when it means maintaining a perfect 7-0 record.

“We didn’t shoot great,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts after Utah defeated Utah State 65-58. “We didn’t even shoot well, but we found a way to win. And we think that’s the important thing.”

Utah out-rebounded the Aggies 44-29, and nearly half of those came on offense.

“We had 19 offensive rebounds, so it wasn’t like we were one and done,” Roberts said of Utah’s effort. “And we got to the free-throw line, and that’s how you win when you’re not shooting well. You rebound and you shoot free throws. So I’m proud of our team for that. We kind of just ground out an ugly game.”

The Aggies started hot and kept the Utes from getting the ball to their leading scorer — junior forward Emily Potter.

“We started off a little cool, but you know, they didn’t miss their first five or six field goals, so that helps,” Roberts said. “They were so keyed on Potter, we couldn’t get the ball, really. And so when and if teams are going to do that, that’s fine. We’ve got to knock down some outside shots.”

In the second quarter, the Aggies tried to slow things down, which caused Utah to make some unforced turnovers. The Utes did, however, play solid defense, which led to Aggie turnovers and, in most cases, Utah points. Utah was led by Paige Crozon, who finished with 15 points, while Tanaeya Boclair added 14 points and seven rebounds and Malia Nawahine gave Utah great balance with 12 points and seven rebounds. Potter finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and five steals, while Erika Bean also had five steals.

Boclair said Utah always makes defense the priority, hoping that offense will follow.

“I think defense is something that we’re always focused on,” she said. “So turning up the intensity and having pressure in the full court and being disruptive in the half court was one of our keys to win. So I think we definitely did that.”

Utah State was led by Shannon Dufficy, who scored 11 points, while Rachel Brewster added 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out of the game.

Utah couldn’t seem to pull away, and both Roberts and her players acknowledged turnovers were the trouble.

“We would be up by eight or nine and then not value the possession and turn it over in transition or travel or get a charge,” Roberts said. “Then you give them another chance to execute.”

For the second straight game, an opponent tried to limit Utah’s possessions by slowing the pace of the game. Boclair said there is a different feel to games against in-state rivals like Saturday's win against the Aggies and Wednesday's victory against SUU.

"The overall feeling," Boclair said of what's different when playing another Utah school. "So it's a lot of intensity. I just think it's a good time."

The bottom line is Utah is 7-0, and as the season marches toward league play there are fewer and fewer teams in the country without a loss. Winning is the goal — regardless of how pretty the team plays. “That’s how the season goes,” Roberts said. “You’re going to have games like that. What I’m looking forward to is when we start clicking (offensively). … That’s why you play 11 games before you get into conference, so you can kind of figure out how to get things rolling.”

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

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