The Utah Valley Women’s Basketball team earned a gritty win in their season opener, beating in-state foe Weber State in a razors edge victory 56-55 to open the 2023-2024 season.
The Wolverines started the game by going into an immediate 7-2 hole with Jadyn Matthews of Weber State scoring the first seven points.
The Wolverines struggled early, with an inability to generate any offense, but on the other hand, their defense was not just good, but historic.
The Wolverines had 20 steals on the game, being a school record against a division 1 opponent, with Kylee Mabry coming off the bench and tying the school record with seven steals alone.
“That changed the game,” head coach Dan Nielson said. “She didn’t score a lot, but those steals and that pressure at the top made all the difference”
The Wolverines were consistently getting their hands in passing lanes and forcing turnovers, turnovers that would lead to desperately needed fast break points.
Eleyana Tafisi was a much needed spark plug in this slow first quarter, with her savvy drives in the lane starting a Wolverine drive that would pull the game to within one.
With the second half winding down the Wolverines needed offense, as the Wildcats had once again pulled ahead to a five point lead, but Ally Criddle would score five points single handedly to end a UVU scoring drought that almost let the game get out of hand. The half would end with the score even at 31 each.
“Our defense fuels our offense, so I think that was the biggest thing for us down the stretch,” said UVU guard Ally Criddle, “Our shots weren’t falling but we kept fighting and pulled it out in the end”
The second half started off slow for both teams with both teams going nearly five minutes without a field goal, but as both teams found their footing it became clear this game would come down to the wire.
With the Wolverines down by one, an incredibly timely three by Kaylee Byon would give Utah Valley the lead in the final quarter of the game.
But once again, with time winding down, and holding on to a paltry one point lead, the star of the show for the Wolverines was stellar defense. Tessa Chaney was a lockdown defender and had an incredibly important defensive possession late, and eventually great team defense would force a brutal Wildcat turnover, all but sealing the game for Utah Valley.
“There’s gonna be games we have got to find a way to win,” Nielson added. “I thought down the stretch we made the plays, especially Liana Kaitu’u had a couple great finishes, and then just some gritty defensive possessions. There’s just a level of toughness and togetherness that just shows the progress from last year.”
UVU will hope to ride this momentum into Provo next Tuesday Nov. 14 where they will play the BYU Cougars. This game will be broadcast on ESPN+.