Las Vegas • It rang up quickly: a floater, a 3-pointer and a layup in a minute and a half.
Quickly is how the Utah State women’s basketball team likes to move.
The Aggies (18-12) were brisk and shot with blistering efficiency on Wednesday, starting their WAC Tournament with a 78-65 victory over No. 7-seeded Denver (14-17) at Orleans Arena. They buried the Pioneers with 13 3-pointers, a scoring avalanche that allowed them to coast into Friday’s semifinals.
“I like to brag about these young ladies that I’d hate to play horse with five or six of them,” coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. “They’re good shooters, and tonight they distributed the ball really well, and that was the answer.”
The Pioneers made it a priority to cover leading scorer Devyn Christensen, but swiftly found that Utah State has a lot of weapons.
Jennifer Schlott hammered that point home, penetrating inside and nailing jumpers to the tune of 17 first-half points. The junior guard notched the first five points of the game and ended up with 21 to lead the Aggies’ effort.
She wasn’t alone: Christensen still got her buckets, notching 16 points. Freshman Makenlee Williams, who has been pushed this season to fire away more often, was 6 for 8 with 16 as well.
It seemed that Utah State still has plenty of its best basketball leftover for the postseason as it drives toward its first NCAA Tournament berth.
“As a team perspective, we want it more,” Williams said. “This is it. This is what the preseason’s for, what the two-a-days and conditioning, this is where it leads to. We just need to leave it all out on the floor, and if we do that we’re a pretty good basketball team.”
From the tip, the Aggies left no doubt of their superiority against a squad that USU took two overtimes to beat in February.
Within eight minutes, Utah State had a double-digit lead. It grew as high as 17 before halftime, then ballooned to as high as 23.
The Aggies took their foot off the gas late, and ended up ceding some points to Denver’s high-scoring backcourt. But defensively as a whole, it was one of the team’s better games. Getting 16 turnovers and 27 defensive rebounds, Utah State’s execution was fitting for a No. 2 seed.
Finkbeiner said before the matchup that he was worried about first-game jitters. His team gave him no reason for concern.
“We have a lot left in our tanks,” Finkbeiner said. “We’re not burnt out, we’re not excited out, we’re not beat down. It’s time to just release it. … I was relieved, to tell you the truth, in the first five minutes.”
Utah State 78, Denver 65
O The Aggies make 13 3-pointers in a blowout win.
• Jennifer Schlott leads the effort with 21 points.
• Devyn Christensen and Makenlee Williams each score 16.