A 20-second window in Utah’s Pac-12 season opener Friday evening showcased why Lynne Roberts coveted Daneesha Provo and why Utah’s head coach thought Provo could thrive in Salt Lake City.
The junior guard coolly drilled a jumper from just inside the 3-point arc and never broke her concentration from the ball. As Arizona inbounded the ball, Provo stalked Arizona guard Marlee Kyles. Utah’s premier scoring threat off the bench eventually forced the turnover and went straight for the basket.
Waiting to take the charge was Arizona forward Sam Thomas.
Provo quickly faked the ball to her right, took a lengthy step and finished a no-look layup from nearly an out-of-bounds position. The “euro-step” left Thomas in the dust.
“It’s hard to defend,” Roberts said. “It’s so awkward. It’s non-routine.”
“Daneesha just drives and finds ways to score,” said senior center Emily Potter. “She’s really crafty around the rim, kind of changing where the ball is to get finishes around people.”
As the Utes kick-started conference season with their 89-55 rout of the Wildcats at the Huntsman Center — Utah’s largest margin of victory in conference play since joining the Pac-12 in 2011 — Provo’s performance was another example of how deep this year’s Utah team can be. Provo, one of three Canadians on the roster this season, grew up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, went on to star at a prep school in Connecticut before choosing to to play at Clemson.
She eventually landed in Salt Lake with the Utes, and after her career-high night of 24 points, it’s evident the decision to trek West was the right one.
“I just felt like my team was there for me and believed in me,” Provo said. “I just kind of took the challenge and stepped up and just relaxed and just basically gave it all.”
Utah needed the transfer to provide an infusion, and quickly.
Starter Tori Williams went down with an sprained ankle less than three minutes into the Pac-12 opener. Williams needed to be carried off the floor, before returning to the Utah bench with her right foot elevated, wrapped heavily in ice. With the sharpshooting freshman out, Provo made certain there’d be no drop-off.
“Losing Tori sucks,” Roberts said, “but I thought Daneesha did a heck of a job stepping in.”
Provo’s 11 points in the first half was more than duplicated in the second half. Her versatility on offense helped the Utes keep Arizona at bay, and her threat from 3-point land continued to punish the Wildcats. Late in the third quarter, Provo set her career high after Utah broke through Arizona’s press.
Instead of barreling toward the basket, Tanaeya BoClair found Provo wide open in front of the Utes bench. Provo’s rainbow 3-pointer swished through the net. Utah’s bench exploded as the lead approached 30.
A night in which the outcome was never really in question — Utah outrebounded Arizona 54-27, 24 of which were offensive boards — was the ideal first step. As Roberts and Co. know, however, one dominant win goes only so far.
“Any time you can win convincingly in the Pac-12,” she said, “I don’t care what the situation is, it’s a good win.”
Potter finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Junior forward Megan Huff had 14 points and 13 rebounds. Utah hosts Arizona State on Sunday at noon at the Huntsman Center.