Utes are revving up for WNIT opener

First Published      Last Updated Mar 16 2017 10:59 pm

Utah women’s basketball » They look to regain early form.

As others tip one back on St. Patrick's Day, the Utes will be tipping off — 15 days since their last game.

The Utah women's basketball team last played a game March 2, a loss to Arizona State in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament. The program hopes enough has changed about its mindset and its execution to author a very different ending to its season.

The Utes (16-14) went on a run last year, making it to the third round of the WNIT before falling at Oregon. They're looking to recapture the energy of their 11-0 nonconference start and exorcise the struggles of Pac-12 play this season. And they hope their Friday night game against UC Davis to open the WNIT will be the start of something worthwhile.

"Sometimes, the rest away from conference season can be good," Utah coach Lynne Roberts said. "I feel like there's great energy with the team right now. I think they're really excited to keep playing, so we'll have to see how it goes."

Roberts knows Utah's upcoming opponent well. The Big West regular-season champion Aggies (23-7) were a prominent rival when she coached at Pacific. They run a Princeton-style offense that probes for weakness and repeatedly exploits the matchup they want.

This is not some pushover first-round opponent. UC Davis is one of the best in the country at taking care of the ball (1.23 assist-to-turnover ratio, No. 20) and is near the top in field goal percentage (44.1 percent, No. 42) and shooting defense (36.1 percent, No. 29). While the Aggies lost both games it played to Pac-12 teams this season — against Stanford and Oregon State — both wound up being top-two seeds in the NCAA Tournament.

"I think they do a good job of teaching their players how to read defenses, and they're very deliberate in what they do," Roberts said. "They try to get the look they want to get, and they have all smart players who can shoot the 3. We need to defend the 3-point line well."

kgoon@sltrib.com Twitter: @kylegoon



UC Davis at Utah

WNIT first round, Huntsman Center

Tipoff » 6 p.m.

Radio » ESPN 700 AM

Tickets » Fans can get free admission for up to six people by going to utahutes.com, printing a family pass coupon and presenting it at the door on game night.