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Utah women’s basketball team edges USC 67-65 for first Pac-12 win of season

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah guard Daneesha Provo (23) works the ball inside in Pac-12 basketball action against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019.

Daneesha Provo missed most of the 2018-19 Utah women’s basketball season with a knee injury. The sophomore guard, who is considered one of the most talented players on the team, finally returned to action about a month ago.

And on Sunday afternoon, she let everyone know just how good she can be.

Provo scored a season-high 17 points for the Utes (8-8, 1-4 Pac-12), who won their first conference game of the season with a 67-65 win over USC (8-8, 1-4 Pac-12) at the Huntsman Center.

“That was the Daneesha we’ve been waiting [a month] to see,” Utes coach Lynne Roberts said. “That’s really positive for us to see her playing the way she’s capable of playing. That was awesome. I’m proud of her.”

Provo scored the final eight Utah points down the stretch of the fourth quarter with the team trailing. She made back-to-back 3-pointers and converted two free throws to give the Utes a 67-63 lead with less than a minute remaining.

Sophomore guard Dru Gylten ignited an 11-2 run with a triple of her own with 3:45 left in the game. She then assisted on both of Provo’s 3-pointers. One such pass was a left-handed cross-court bullet that Roberts described as “amazing.”

Gylten finished the game with eight points and 10 assists with zero turnovers.

“She had a great game,” Roberts said of Gylten.

Utah freshman guard Kemery Martin had a season-high 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting. After the postgame media session, a pair of her teammates gave her high-fives and congratulated her.

Roberts said Martin’s game Sunday should boost her confidence.

“I’ve been telling her, ‘You just have to stick with it, stick with it, stick with it and you’re going to have a breakout game,’ ” Roberts said before fondly nudging her. “And it was today.”

The Utes went through a gauntlet recently, playing and losing to Oregon State, Oregon and UCLA — three of the top four teams in the PAC-12 that are all ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 women’s basketball poll.

Roberts said the pressure started to mount around the team to win its first conference game. She was pleased that despite being down with only five minutes left in the game, the Utes found a way to win.

“It wasn’t a perfect game, which I like that we still won,” Roberts said. “We showed some grit and some toughness, which this league will bring that out of you.”

Martin said she thinks the win will give the team confidence moving forward.

“I think we wanted this win more than anything,” Martin said. “I think we talked about it a lot the past few days. I think it was important for us to get this win.”

The Utes have three road games coming up against Colorado, California and Stanford. Roberts said she wants her team to enjoy the win against USC and build off it going into those three matchups.

“We just need to continue taking the next step,” Roberts said.

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