The need to start and finish games strong

UVU women’s basketball has struggled to start fast and finish fast in recent losing streak

During media day for basketball coaches in the Western Athletic Conference in October, Utah Valley University women’s coach Cathy Nixon said, “We’re determined to close games. I think our players have gotten better, gotten more experience. I think that was the different in those games was just experience.”

It was something that Nixon hoped her team could overcome as they started the 2015-16 season. Unfortunately, the Wolverines have dropped four straight and two of those games they had a lead going into the fourth quarter.

On Dec. 29, they held a 38-31 lead going into the fourth quarter against Idaho State. However, they struggled to hit shots and the Bengals outscored the Wolverines 25-9 in the quarter to win 56-47. The Wolverines shot just 28 percent in the second half and were 1-of-16 from 3-point range.

They tried to right-the-ship two days later on New Year’s Eve but again couldn’t hold a fourth quarter lead. They outscored UC Davis 22-9 in the third period to take a 41-33 lead. But in the fourth quarter they went cold again and the Aggies outscored the Wolverines 26-14 in the quarter to win 59-55.

Rebecca MaWhinney and the UVU women hope that their experience will help them close out games a little better during WAC play. Photo by Kyle McDonald.
Rebecca MaWhinney and the UVU women hope that their experience will help them close out games a little better during WAC play. Photo by Kyle McDonald.

The Wolverines ran into a buzz kill in their first two conference games. They faced New Mexico State, who is the favorite to win the WAC and they faced the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, who is undefeated at home this season.

Against New Mexico State, the Wolverines held their own and kept the game close throughout. Deijah Blanks and Sam Loggins did all they could to keep the Wolverines in the game but they couldn’t finish the deal as New Mexico State defeated the Wolverines 73-68 in Las Cruces.

Against UTRGV, the Wolverines started slow and it hurt them. The Vaqueros got out to a 36-22-halftime lead and held on to win 61-48. UVU shot just 30 percent in the first half and was 0-of-6 from 3-point range compared to 8-of-19 from 3-point range for the Vaqueros.

During this four-game losing streak, leading scorer Rhaiah Spooner-Knight has been absent. Spooner-Knight was averaging 13.4 points per game and 5.3 rebounds for the Wolverines.

But no team is built around one player. UVU has to start fast and finish strong if they are to have any success throughout the remainder of the season. They have lost 9-of-10 after starting the season 6-1. It is a team with talent with WAC Freshman of the Year Mariah Seals leading the way. With three home games in a row that began with Grand Canyon this past Saturday, it is time for the UVU women to get back to the basics and find a way to win ball games.

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