Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 13:01
It was a week full of thrills for the Utah State women’s basketball team, from a down-to-the-wire finish to a clinical exhibition that resulted in two wins to improve to 7-10 on the season and 4-2 in WAC play.
Utah State 85, Denver 69
The win was engineered by a huge first half from star senior Devyn Christensen.
“This is a feel good game for us,” USU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner said. “This is something we visualized for about two months. It came together for us tonight.”
Christensen exploded for 23 first half points and she did it with a variety of shots. Whether it was driving to the hoop for a layup or pulling up from deep for a 3-pointer, Christensen was on a mission.
“The first half was huge,” Christensen said. “That is more like me, more in my rhythm and just letting the offense come. When I got my confidence and started hitting some shots, that was heat check time.”
After shooting 8-of-12 from the field in the half — including a staggering 5-of-9 from 3-point range — Christensen cooled off in the second half and finished with 25 points.
Junior Jennifer Schlott followed up an impressive performance on Thursday with yet another on Saturday. Schlott came one assist shy of a double-double, finishing with 15 points and nine assists. Sophomore Franny Vaaulu chipped in with 12 points off the bench.
“My teammates always make me look good,” Schlott said. “They put me in good positions and coaches call good plays for us. They were hard hedging me a lot so everyone was open and my teammates knocked down some shots.”
Denver’s Michaela Neuhaus and Kailey Edwards each had 18 points to lead the team in the first ever meeting between the two schools.
USU was lights out in the game, shooting 56 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc. The Aggies stellar play wasn’t just on the offensive end. Defensively, they held Denver to 34 percent shooting and 21 percent on 3-pointers.
“The reason the defense looked good tonight was because we were making shots offensively,” Finkbeiner said. “There wasn’t any pressure on our defense, so we could take a few more chances.”
The teams traded baskets and the lead for the first 13 minutes of the first half, but the Aggies began pulling away with a little more than seven minutes remaining after a 3-pointer from Christensen pushed the lead to 12.
The lead ballooned to 49-29 after another 3-pointer by Christensen. The Aggies took an 18 point lead into halftime, 51-33.
The second half brought more of the same as USU was able to keep up its hot shooting. The closest the Pioneers got within the lead was 67-51 with 10 minutes remaining in the game, but the Aggies led by as many as 25 points.
“It’s good to have Devyn Christensen and Franny play well,” Finkbeiner said. “They haven’t played well together as a tandem in a long time.”
Utah State 65, New Mexico State 63
USU came off an emotional victory Thursday night when they hosted the New Mexico State Aggies. Freshman Makenlee Williams was the hero, her 3-point shot as time expired giving the blue Aggies the win over their WAC rivals.
The 3-pointer by Williams was only the second three the Aggies hit all night, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Schlott led USU in scoring with 21 points and added seven assists. Christensen finished with 12 points.
The Aggies next game will be on the road when they take on UT Arlington on Thursday. The game is scheduled for a 6 p.m. tipoff.