Women’s basketball: Five takeaways from exhibition win

Photo by Brad Curnow

OREM, Utah—The Utah Valley University women’s basketball team demolished the Southern Virginia Knights 109-38 in an exhibition game Saturday. The Wolverines hosted the Division III Knights in the renovated PE Gym for a final tune up game before they start the regular season at home Friday against BYU. Despite the lopsided contest, here are five things to take away from the win.

Make it rain

UVU knocked down 13 3-pointers en route to a blowout win. Freshman Keana Delos Santos led the way for UVU with six triples of her own. Fellow freshman Gabrielle Leos tallied five. Junior Mariah Seals, who was the runner-up on last year’s squad in 3-pointers made with 38, recorded an 0-for-2 afternoon.

“Well we have kids that can shoot the ball certainly,” said UVU head coach Cathy Nixon. “They’re kind of streaky shooters with Keana and Gabi, so happy to see them stepping up confidently and knocking down shots when they had the chance.”

Rebecca MaWhinney led the Wolverines in perimeter shooting last season, but will miss the season with an undisclosed injury. However, if the combination of Delos Santos and Leos can find their rhythm, this is a group that has tremendous potential to spread the floor with its shooting ability.

Better with the full-court press

SVU ran a full-court press against UVU Saturday that didn’t seem to have the same effect as it did last season. In a game against New Mexico State on Feb. 6, UVU held a nine-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Aggies had harassed the Wolverines with a press after every basket, and it finally paid off in the fourth quarter with bad passes and shot clock violations.

Saturday, UVU seemed much more equipped to handle a press and set off-ball screens to get open in the backcourt, while taking advantage of a trap to find the open man for an easy bucket.

Depth is an issue… for now

In addition to MaWhinney’s injury, UVU is depleted and dressed only eight players Saturday. Against an inferior opponent, it proved beneficial as more players were allowed to log additional minutes. However, the problem comes at the end of games. The excess of minutes will catch up with this team similar to how it today Saturday.

“I thought we lacked some of that toughness when we got tired in the second half when the game opened up a little bit. We weren’t quite as intense and urgent on the defensive end,” said Nixon.

Defensively, UVU held SVU to just 18 points in the second half, compared to 22 in the first. However, the scoring dropped off in the final 20 minutes from 63 points to 46. Yes, it was a blowout in an exhibition, but the Wolverines’ shooting percentage dropped off from 68.6 percent at half to 59.2 percent at the end of the game, including 45.5 percent in the fourth quarter.

Tempo, tempo, tempo

Twelve fast break points recorded on the day, and it could have been more. If there’s open court, this group will find it and go. Seals will run all day if she’s allowed to and has the motor to do it. Expect to see this team look for running lanes on lose balls and rebounds.

The Wolverines also punished the Knights with 53 points off turnovers. With its ability to run, UVU kept SVU from setting up on defense on multiple trips down the floor and earned an easy basket.

Raw and inexperienced

Above all, this is a very young team. A trio of juniors is the veteran leadership this season. Yes, Seals is the head of that trio, who is an all-conference guard, but 10 underclassmen round out the rest of the roster, including five freshmen. Young teams have the ability to surprise everybody because there’s a lot of mystery surrounding them. However, the lights also tend to get a little too bright late in games. With a short bench to start the season, this young group is going to have a lot of opportunity to grow, but not without the pains that come with it.

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