Utah women’s basketball continues to roll, cruises past Oregon State to remain in 5th place in Pac-12 standings
With their best team since they joined the Pac-12 11 years ago, the Utes play their regular-season finale Saturday at the Huntsman Center against No. 25 Oregon
Knowing that Thursday night’s Pac-12 game against Oregon State was one the Utes needed to win, University of Utah women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts delivered a “little military history story” before the matchup in hopes of firing her team up.
Brynna Maxwell scored 12 points off the bench, continuing to adjust well to her new role, and Jenna Johnson added 12 as the Utes rolled past the Beavers 70-58 at the Huntsman Center in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
“Really proud of our team. We needed this one and we got it.” — Utah women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts
“Really proud of our team,” Roberts said. “We needed this one and we got it.”
Utah wore special jerseys to honor the USS Salt Lake City ship on Military Appreciation Day, in conjunction with the men’s game that followed against No. 2 Arizona.
Utah (8-6, 17-9) entered the game with a NET ranking around 25, so it wasn’t and isn’t on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but getting the job done was satisfying nevertheless. Utah shot 40% from the field and held OSU to 35% while never trailing.
Dru Gylten got the ball rolling with a field goal, then added five more points and seven assists in a strong all-around floor game. The Utes committed just two turnovers in the first half, seven in the game.
“I think we controlled the whole game,” Roberts said. “The fourth quarter was a grind. The second half was not a thing of beauty. I don’t know why.”
Utah took a 31-20 lead at halftime, then Johnson, a freshman from Minnesota, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to push the lead to 17. Oregon State (6-8, 13-11) got no closer than nine the rest of the way.
Utah outrebounded the bigger Beavers 45-38 and got 33 points from its bench.
“Our kids battled like crazy,” Roberts said, noting that this is Utah’s best record, percentage-wise, in league play this late in the season since it joined the Pac-12 in 2011.
This truly is the best Utah women’s basketball team in a decade, at least. The Utes play an entertaining brand of ball, shoot 3-pointers with accuracy and without conscience, at times, and scrap and claw to overcome a bit of a height disadvantage.
They lead the Pac-12 in scoring offense (78.3) and 3-pointers made (9.72 per game) and also lead the conference in 3-point field goal percentage. It is the most efficient offense in the country, in some metrics.
Roberts urged fans after the game to get out Saturday and support the group one last time.
Guard Kennady McQueen added 10 points and seven rebounds, while not having to worry about drawing fans. She says about 20-25 family members attend her home games, making the drive from the Summit County towns of Henefer, Wanship and Coalville.
“I think our posts box out well, and then in the second half we made the adjustment, instead of the guards leaking out they were getting in there too and cleaning up some of those rebounds,” Johnson said, explaining the rebounding edge.
Maxwell keyed the contribution off the bench. A starter most of her career and the first 11 games this season, the Washington native has been coming off the bench since the Utes had to pause their season due to COVID-19, with positive results.
“I would say it is a little bit of an adjustment, but I don’t think my impact has changed at all,” Maxwell said. “It is a good starting group that really gets us going. We start really well with that group. I am really proud of how Gianna (Kneepkens) and Kennady have taken that in stride.”
Kneepkens, Utah’s leading scorer, struggled a bit, going 1 of 9 from the field and 1 of 7 from 3-point range. Maxwell was 2 of 5 from deep, part of Utah’s 8 of 30 effort from beyond the arc.
“There is no drop-off (when Maxwell goes in),” Roberts said. “How many teams would kill to have Brynna Maxwell coming off the bench? … That is back-to-back games where Brynna has been a huge catalyst for us, making big shots that kinda gets everyone relaxed a little bit and feeling really confident.”
Utah, which is fifth in the Pac-12 standings, plays host to No. 25 Oregon on Saturday for Senior Night, then starts preparing for the conference tournament in Las Vegas. The Ducks were upset 86-83 by Colorado (8-7, 19-7) on Thursday.