If there’s a good way to stop Jennifer Schlott, don’t ask the Utes.
Utah State’s senior point guard shot it from long, and dribbled it into the paint from short. When the Aggies were running, she took the lead for layups. On the rare occasions when Utah did manage to blanket her, she found the right pass to an open teammate.
In a 77-61 victory in the Spectrum on Tuesday night, Utah State showed how tough it can be when Schlott is hot. But off a career-high 37 points, she was just happy to finally beat a Utah team that has bullied the Aggies for a long time.
“It feels so good - they spanked us last year,” she said, seeming to exhale for the first time all night. “They’ve actually spanked us every year since I’ve been here, so it’s really nice to get the win.”
Schlott was the centerpiece of a fast-moving offense that took charge late in the second half. After pulling ahead for a 55-53 lead with 7:22 left, Utah State took off on a 14-0 run that left the Utes in the dust.
The Aggies built their advantage in transition points and off of Utah’s nine second-half turnovers. In the crucial timeout before the back-breaking rally, coach Jerry Finkbeiner told his team to turn up the heat and try to get easy baskets.
“We got two layups in the next three possessions on fast breaks, and [the Utes] had to lay some things on the line,” Finkbeiner said. “I think the best thing we did was attack them at that point in the game.”
Schlott was 13 for 22 on the night, as well as 9 for 10 from the free throw line. Her creativity and speed proved to be problematic for Utah. Scoring wasn’t her only stat contribution: She also added six rebounds and seven assists while only turning the ball over twice.
Finkbeiner said Schlott has become more offensively assertive in the past two years, molding herself to be the weapon the Aggies need.
“Jen has an uncanny way of head fakes and change of directions and step-throughs,” he said. “That little body she has, she can bounce off of people and finish shots. Classic scoring point guard in our program.”
From the outset, Utah State struggled to contain Michelle Plouffe, one of the preminent post players in the nation. When the Aggies did shroud the 6-foot-4 Canadian, Utes junior sharpshooter Cheyenne Wilson made them pay from deep.
But after initially falling behind, Utah State pulled back into it with a feisty zone defense and hustle rebounding. The Utes had size, but the Aggies fought back on the boards with numbers in the paint.
For the game, Utah State outrebounded the taller Utes 41-36, and only turned it over six times.
Besides beating a bitter in-state rival, Utah State hoped it sent a sign with an impressive non-conference win: The Mountain West had better watch out.
“It sends a little message that we’re ready,” said Makenlee Williams, who finished with 17 points. “We’re going to be competitive, and we’re going to be all right if we keep doing what we need to do and improve.”
Utah State 77, Utah 61
O USU’s Jennifer Schlott knocks back a career-high 37 points.
• The Aggies outrebound Utes 41-36 and outscore them 39-20 in the paint.