The 2018-19 Utah women's basketball roster is deep, tall and talented. Imagine if all of those players were available to the No. 14 Utes.
The story of the program's rise, going into games Friday at No. 4 Oregon and Sunday at No. 9 Oregon State, involves how coach Lynne Roberts has maximized her eight active players. The limited roster makes her job easier in some ways, with clearly defined roles.
“All eight of them are needed, wanted, used, valued; and that can build some momentum,” Roberts said this week.
How did this happen, though? The preseason team photo shows 13 players – not counting another player who’s still listed on the roster. Lola Pendande, a 6-foot-4 forward from Spain, was unable to enroll in school; she’s expected to join the program next season.
Two transfers from four-year schools are redshirting: guard Julie Brosseau, from Maine, and center Ola Makurat, from Liberty. Injuries ended the seasons for 6-5 sophomore forward Maurane Corbin in preseason practice and senior forward Daneesha Provo in early January. In between, redshirt freshman guard Jordan Cruz left the program in mid-December after nine games and subsequently transferred to Pacific.
NO. 14 UTAH AT NO. 4 OREGON
When • Friday, 8 p.m. MST
TV • Pac-12 Networks.
So the Utes have eight available players, including four freshmen, and they’re thriving.
The potentially frightening aspects of the reduced roster are injuries and foul trouble. The Utes experienced a scare Jan. 18 vs. Colorado, with freshman forward Dre’Una Edwards dislocating her shoulder in the third quarter. Utah (18-1, 7-1 Pac-12) went on to win that game, though, and Edwards returned last week in victories over California and then-No. 6 Stanford.
And the Utes have a knack for avoiding fouls. That already was a major emphasis of Roberts' staff, based on offseason study. Utah was fouling too much and allowing too much 3-point success. The Utes have improved markedly in those areas, with opponents shooting 29.2 percent on 3-pointers and foul trouble rarely an issue.
Team chemistry is the element of Utah’s success that Roberts acknowledges being unable to control as a coach. “You talk about it, try to force-feed it with a spoon,” she said. “And it’s up to the players. It’s like a 3-year-old, right? They’re either going to eat it or they’re not. And this team has just kind of bought into each other. … There’s not an overly dominant personality on the team, which enables everybody to thrive.”