The UVU women’s basketball team will head into the Great West conference tournament riding the good momentum train after a big win against conference cellar-dweller Houston Baptist.
The main theme for the Wolverine’s good play is defense. The team has played strong defense all season long and that has been the driving force behind their 14 wins and six conference victories. Both head coach Cathy Nixon and senior Jenna Johnson echoed this sentiment when asked about what the team needs to do moving forward to win the conference tournament in Chicago.
“I think it’s continuing to defend teams,” Nixon said. “For any basketball team at any level, if you’re going to be successful throughout the year and especially at this time of the year I think you have to be a team that can lock down and get stops on the defensive end.”
“When we lock down on defense we’re really hard to beat,” Johnson added.
The other key to the Wolverines’ success is a balanced attack and an overall team effort. Sammie Jensen, Erika Newbold, and Johnson have been there all year, but production from the rest of the team had been lacking.
UVU seems to be hitting their stride at the right time of the year. Recently, players Whitney Jenkins and Taylor Huber have stepped up big while players Kyra Prause, Alle Finch and Abbie Beutler have been comfortable contributing as well. The 3-point shooting of late is another improvement that the Wolverines have seen this year.
After starting for much of her career, Johnson has settled into her bench role quite well.
“[The transition] hasn’t been bad,” Johnson said. “I enjoy coming off the bench. It takes a lot of pressure off me.”
With a win Tuesday over Houston Baptist, the Wolverines clinched second place in the Great West Conference. This gives the team a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
“You want to be able to give yourself a chance to get that first round bye, watch teams play and settle in a little bit,” Coach Nixon said. “Regardless, I feel like we’re a program that has peaked at the end of the year and hopefully we’ll be able to do things in the tournament that will help us to be successful.”
University of North Dakota has clinched first place in the Great West, with their only loss coming to the Wolverines in North Dakota. The second meeting between these two teams in their season finale on March 3 in Orem.
By Nick Hefler