The Arizona road trip produced split emotions for the Utah Valley women’s basketball team. As the team participated in a two-game series in the Northern Arizona University Hilton Garden Inn Thanksgiving Classic they first fell short to NAU 73-59, then came back two days later to bring home a one-point win over Kent State 46-45.
The loss to Northern Arizona came after the Wolverines shot a 44.8 percent from the court in the first-half before dropping to 32 percent in the second. One of the Utah Valley’s biggest scorers, Sammie Jensen, shot 2-of-11 from the court and finished the night with eight points.
“I feel like this team has offensive potential that we haven’t quite reached yet,” head coach Cathy Nixon said.
On a positive note, Jensen hit 4-of-4 from the line while Jenna Johnson sank 12 points. Johnson trailed right behind sophomore Kim Bell, who led the team in scoring with 14 points and coming just shy of a double-double at seven rebounds.
“It’s the small pieces,” Nixon said. “It’s putting together the little things that are going to help us become a better basketball team.”
Coming off the loss against NAU, Utah Valley came back to play Kent State and saw Jensen scoring a double-double while Johnson led the team in scoring 13 total points. The Wolverines also received support off the bench as sophomore Whitney Jenkins played 14 minutes, scoring eight points.
Despite the success from Jenkins, Nixon explained that, as part of the coaching staff, they are still trying to get a feel for where the team stands with rotations.
“Whitney was a big key to us, being successful to get a little bit more spark on the perimeter scoring,” Nixon said. “I take the responsibility myself that that’s something, as a coaching staff, we have to do: find the right combinations of kids and find who can provide needs.”
The team’s brightest aspect may have come from their defense. The Wolverines tied their season high in defensive rebounds with 29 and came home with 46 total rebounds. As Utah Valley went scoreless for nearly seven minutes in the second half, they were able to hold off the offense of Kent State enough to let Jensen help finish to the one-point win.
As the season continued and the women’s basketball team prepared for their next four games at home, they were still looking to improve their assists. A flaw that was never kicked last season, the team still holds a turnover record that is just below half of their assists.
Nixon stays determined to focus on each “small piece” of the team one game at a time.
“We’re just concerned with our own game,” Nixon said. “If we take care of what we need to than we have a chance to be successful.”
Kevin Olsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By KEVIN OLSEN