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Utah women's basketball rolls past Montana State in WNIT opening round

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s women’s basketball team put together a clinic on what team basketball should look like in its 95-61 thumping of Montana State in the opening round of the WNIT. Every Ute scored in the game and all but one player had an assist and rebound.

“I think it was a good win for us,” said Utah coach Lynne Roberts. “I’m obviously proud of the fact everybody scored — we got to play our whole roster and we had 27 assists.”

The 27 assists were key to Utah’s win, but there were other reasons as well. Utah outscored the Bobcats 32-18 in the paint, using its size advantage throughout the game. The Utes also got 44 points from their bench, led by Katie Kuklok’s 18. All of the senior’s points came from the three-point line, in a 6-of-10 effort.

Kuklok’s biggest buckets came after Montana State tied things at 18-18 with 8:46 left to play in the second quarter. The back-to-back treys kick-started a 19-3 run to end the half and put Utah up 37-21.

Roberts credited her bench for the run, noting Joeseta Fatuesi’s rebounding and Kuklok’s shooting.

The 18-18 tie was all Montana State could muster. Utah never trailed in the game and poured on the scoring in the second half, which included 21 points in the third quarter. The Utes matched their first-half total of 37 points in the final 10 minutes to close out the game. It was the second time this season Utah’s point production was in the 90s, the other a 97-56 win over Cal State Northridge in December.

Not too shabby considering Utah hadn’t played in 15 days after dropping its last outing on March 3 in its opening round of the Pac-12 tourney.

Roberts gave her players due for “staying plugged in” during the break and noted it was a long stretch off.

Utah’s Paige Crozon led all players with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Emily Potter recorded her 15th double-double of the season with 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

“My teammates were giving me great passes, doing all of the hard work,” said Crozon. “All the credit goes to them — they did an incredible job out there.”

The win was a nice boost for Utah, which hadn't been to the postseason since 2013 and gives Roberts a checkmark in her debut season at Utah.

Peyton Ferris led the Bobcats with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Looking ahead

Just like the Utah men’s team, the women will face Gonzaga in their second round of postseason action. The matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m. (MDT) on Monday at Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are a familiar foe for Roberts, whose previous stint was in the West Coast Conference with Pacific.

“I have familiarity with them from the West Coast Conference,” said Roberts. “I have respect for them, they are a storied program like their men’s team. They have a good home atmosphere and it will be fun to go up there and play in front of a lot of people. I know they have great post play, run their stuff well, shoot well, and are balanced."

Roberts' assistant coach Gavin Petersen, who runs the defense, was with her at Pacific so she feels like the team already has “a scout” to get the Utes ready.