After a disappointing season opener on Thursday, the Aggies looked to be headed down the same path in the second quarter.
However, the Utah State women’s basketball team drew from a feisty halftime talk from associate head coach Ben Finkbeiner and took care of business Saturday evening in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. Three Aggies had career highs in scoring, and USU picked up its first win over the season against visiting Seattle, 70-63.
“We got out and had a really good start in the first quarter and played good defense,” said Aggie sophomore guard Steph Forman, who led the team with 28 points, six rebounds and three steals. “In the second quarter we had a lull. Coach Ben kind of yelled at us a little bit (at halftime), which is what we needed. We got it going again in the third and kept it going in the fourth.”
So, what did Finkbeiner say?
“Coach Ben told us what we were giving wasn’t good enough,” Gorman said. “We needed to push through. He told the captains and seniors needed to be the leaders for everyone and that’s what happened and everyone followed.”
The Aggies (1-1) had let a double-digit first quarter lead get away in the opener. Once again USU built a 25-10 lead at one point in the first half, only to end up with a 29-28 lead at the break. That did not set well with the coach.
“I was really proud of our seniors and team captains,” Finkbeiner said. “... At halftime it was important that they understood this is on them a little bit to show our freshmen and new players how we win close games. I was really pleased to see they were up to the challenge.”
The Redhawks (1-1) actually tied the game at 36-36 four minutes into the second half. But the Aggies never fell behind this time.
In fact, they used a 10-0 run that stretched from the end of the third quarter into the fourth. During that spurt, Gorman heated up from beyond the arc. The Aussie sharpshooter drilled a pull-up 3-pointer on the break and would hit two more in the early going of the fourth quarter to give the hosts some breathing room.
“I did a lot of work with (assistant) coach Ashley (Gill) in the summer and preseason doing those transition, pull-up threes,” Gorman said. “I feel really comfortable shooting them. ... They (Redhawks) were sinking back, so I was going to shoot it.”
Gorman doubled her previous career high in points. She had scored 14 on several occasions. And she could have had more as she missed five free throws and actually shot better from 3-point range (5 of 9) than the foul line (5 of 10).
“It’s kind of unbelievable right, feels awesome,” Gorman said of scoring 28 points. “That’s a credit to our team on defense getting steals and so I could push it in transition. ... I shot better from the 3-point line. I know. I’ll practice my free throws. That’s OK, next time.”
Lindsey Jensen-Baker and Marlene Aniambossou got into the career-scoring action as well with 15 and 13 points, respectively. Both had buckets at times when the Aggies needed some points.
“I think Marlene can be scoring 25 points and will this year,” Finkbeiner said. “Lindsey the same thing. She is going to have games over 20.”
Aniambossou led the Aggies with nine rebounds and also had three steals.
Seattle was led by 5-foot-7 guard Kamira Sanders as she had a double-double with game bests in points (30) and rebounds (11). Sanders scored six points late to make the final score closer.
“Tonight we learned how to close out a close game,” Finkbeiner said. “That’s a great check mark for this team.”
After two home games to open the season, the Aggies hit the road for four games, starting at No. 1 Oregon next week. The Ducks recently beat the U.S. women’s national team in an exhibition game.
“Hopefully we can put up a good fight against Oregon,” Gorman said. “If we believe we can win, we can win. We just have to believe.”
It was another rough outing for the Aggie spikers.
UNLV was able to win a couple of close sets and finished strong in the fourth for a 25-21, 20-25, 25-23, 18-25 win Saturday afternoon at the Wayne Estes Center in Mountain West Conference action.
It was the eighth straight loss for Utah State (2-24, 2-12 MW). Meanwhile the Rebels (15-10, 11-3) remains in the running to finish near the top of the league.
The Aggies had chances to take the third set and turn the pressure up on UNLV. But the Rebels were able to finish it off, then jumped out to a quick lead in the fourth and rolled to the victory.
Utah State was led in the hitting department by freshman outside hitter Hailey Cuff with 10 kills. Aggie middle blocker Corinne Larsen actually had the best hitting percentage at .643 with nine kills. Junior opposite side hitter added eight kills and hit .313.
Defensively, junior defensive specialist Madi Olson-Shepherd and freshman setter Kalena Vaivai each had eight digs. Larsen and junior middle blocker Kelee Call each had six block assists.