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  • Writer's pictureKyle Flannery

Utah’s Lynne Roberts just put on a coaching masterclass: Here’s how she did it

Utah's Lynne Roberts hands ball back

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

I’ll admit it - I was sleeping on Utah. After Gianna Kneepkens’ foot injury was announced as season-ending, I believed the Utes’ title hopes went down with her. I wrote earlier in the season that Utah could no longer be considered a contender because they couldn’t bank on an Alissa Pili 30-ball every night, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. On Monday, Utah took down #2 UCLA in overtime 94-81, with Pili’s first bucket not coming until the third quarter. The reigning Pac-12 player of the year only finished with 16 points, half of which came from the charity stripe, but the Utes were lead to victory largely due to Utah coach Lynne Roberts’ game plan and in-game adjustments. There are a bevy of reasons on why Roberts’ squad came out on top against the Bruins, but there are three that stand out as being the most effective. 

They forced Lauren Betts to guard the perimeter

UCLA’s Lauren Betts is without a doubt one of the most intimidating interior defenders in college basketball. The 6’7” Stanford transfer is the anchor of the Bruins’ defense, averaging over two blocks per game and making opposing offenses think twice before driving the ball into the paint. Luckily, Utah has the perfect counter in Alissa Pili. Pili’s ability to hit the three consistently forces Betts (an underrated perimeter defender as well) out of the paint. 

They had elite shot selection

Last night’s game featured maybe the best shot selection from a team I’ve seen since I closely followed basketball. It seemed like every shot was either a layup or a quality look from three, often coming off of an extra pass. Taking Betts out of the paint opened up driving lanes for Utah, who decided to either finish at the rim or kick it out to an open shooter. Pretty much the entirety of Utah’s roster shoots from beyond the arc at a respectable clip, but the three point barrage was led by senior Dasia Young who came into the game shooting 25% from three this year. When she’s the Ute killing you from downtown, you know it’s going to be a long night. 

They Utilized the Alissa Pili Slice Cut

I think it’s safe to call Lynne Roberts a SLOB wizard. Utilizing a slice cut to get Pili open in the post is an objectively good way to get Utah’s best player the ball in crunch time, but what Roberts did in the final seconds of the game was nothing short of genius. After getting Pili the ball on her cut just a couple minutes earlier, UCLA was locked in on Pili getting the ball in the post again. Roberts sent Pili on the same cut, and anticipating UCLA would double her, had point guard Ines Vieira slip to the baseline for a wide open layup to send the game into overtime. 

The Pac-12 is far and away the best conference in women’s college basketball right now, and Utah refuses to be dismissed as an afterthought. Come March, look for the Utes to turn some heads on a potential deep tournament run.

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