Utah women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts looked into the eyes of her players after Sunday’s “humbling” 85-43 loss to No. 10 Oregon and immediately saw what she needed to see.
“I could tell from their faces that they were going to be OK,” she said. “There was not anything other than resolve.”
That determined attitude to persevere after an embarrassing season-opening setback was manifested two days later when the Utes upset No. 15 Oregon State, 85-79, in Corvallis on Tuesday night, setting off a wild celebration in the locker room at Gill Coliseum.
“To bounce back, and not just beat Oregon State, who was 15th in the country, on the road, at their place, any day would be a big win for us,” Roberts said Wednesday morning in a Zoom meeting with reporters. “But to do it on the heels of all the things we have been through makes me really proud of our players. I am proud of their resolve.”
Because of COVID-19 issues and contact tracing within the program, Utah was not able to play any nonconference games or have any scrimmages before the Oregon road swing, making the victory over the Beavers even more special. Oregon State was 3-0, including a 70-53 win over Colorado in its Pac-12 opener Sunday.
Roberts said it wasn’t a fluke. The Utes shot 40% from the field, 37% from 3-point range, and overcame an early nine-point deficit in the first quarter. There were five lead changes and two ties.
“It is a big win because Oregon State is a respected and tough program,” she said. “But it was how we played. We played really well. We didn’t just beat them and they had a bad night. They competed, they did a nice job, and we just made plays.”
Sophomore guard Brynna Maxwell, a preseason all-Pac-12 selection, scored 28 of her career-high 34 points in the second half.
“I kept calling her number, and she just kept answering,” Roberts said. “It is fun to have a player like that.”
Maxwell made six free throws in the final minute to seal the win, after going 4 for 4 from deep in the second half.
“It was fun. Winning is always fun, but there are games where you are particularly proud of the players as a coach and last night was one of those for me,” Roberts said.
Corner Canyon product Kemery Martin tied a career-high with 15 points, while Dru Gylten added 12 points and four steals.
“Kemery played with a swagger we knew she had when we were recruiting her,” Roberts said.
The coach said the difference was offensive rebounding, as the visitors turned 19 offensive rebounds into 14 second-chance points. Most of the other statistics were even.
Utah has defeated ranked teams on the road before in Roberts’ six seasons at Utah, most recently a January 2019 win over No. 19 Arizona State. But this one was extraordinary, considering the “cards we were dealt” the past few weeks, Roberts said.
Where does this win rank in her career?
“It is up there,” she said. “When you go on the road and win and you are not supposed to, and it is just your team in the locker room and everything, that’s as fun as it gets. It really is. That’s a good step. It is the drug that keeps you coming back. In athletics, that’s as fun as it gets, so it is up there. But I hope it is not the pinnacle of our season, that’s for sure.”
The Utes will host Montana State at the Huntsman Center on Friday, then head back out on the road Monday for a noon showdown with traveling partner Colorado in Boulder.