Despite the loss, Wolverine newcomers Kali Roche and Sammie Jensen posted high stats.

True freshman Kali Roche finished with eight points and three rebounds in the season opener. Kira Terry/UVU Review

The women’s basketball program tipped off their 2010-11 preseason WNIT competition on Nov. 12 against the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State.

The Wolverines (0-1) fell on the wrong end of the 87-38 final score, but had the opportunity to compete on a higher national setting in the NCAA Women’s Preseason NIT tournament.

This year’s tournament was established to showcase up-and-coming programs for the success from programs in the past, and with the 2009-10 Great West Conference Championship title, the lady Wolverines were excited for the challenge.

“When we started the process of this transition [to Division I], we knew there were benchmarks along the way where we would know that we had gained respect and recognition nationally,” said Coach Cathy Nixon. “We wanted to put ourselves on the national map playing against more recognized teams. And what a great honor for our kids to do what we have done, going from a junior college to Division I and to reach this level of recognition.”

South Dakota State (1-0) has a strong women’s basketball program, and came out of the gate at full speed going on a 17-4 run to start the game while shooting a perfect 7 of 7 from the field. UVU scored three quick buckets in the paint from true freshman Kali Roche. That helped cut the lead to a nine-point game, where the score sat for a majority of the first half until the end when SDSU went on a 14-0 run for a 45-19 halftime lead.

The Jackrabbits, shooting as a team at an unbelievable 66.7 percent from the field, controlled the first half highlights. SDSU almost matched their overall shooting percentage from behind the 3-point arch with a strong 6 of 10 from downtown. The lady Wolverines were 2 of 8 from behind the arch shooting an overall 23.5 percent for the first half.
In the second half, the Jackrabbits came out proving that the first half was not a fluke, finishing a hot 11 of 19 from 3-point land with seven players in double digits. Sophomore transfer Sammie Jensen led the lady Wolverines with 11 points and seven boards, but the Jackrabbits were relentless all game.

“We knew we’d be up against some very good teams,” Nixon said. “South Dakota State is a very good team; part of maturing and gaining experience as a player and as a team is that you challenge yourself. My goal is that playing that level of competition will lift our level.”

Nixon was very impressed with the level of dedication and hard work the lady Wolverines demonstrated throughout the game and believes they will be able to gain confidence moving forward into the next game and throughout the season.

The lady Wolverines will return to home court Tuesday as they host in-state opponent Weber State at 7:05 p.m.