LOGAN, Utah – Utah State women’s basketball posted an 81-64 victory in front of the largest crowd of the season on Wednesday afternoon as more than 2,500 students from local elementary schools tested the decibel levels inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
“Very loud in here,” head coach Kayla Ard said, “especially sitting right behind our bench. They did a great job, though. It was great having them here and hopefully we gained some fans from it. I hope some of the kids had a good time and they want to come back to our games.”
Senior Kaylin Randhawa and graduate Laci Hawthorne led the Aggies with 22 and 21 points, respectively, as Hawthorne also pulled down eight rebounds and logged two blocks and one steal.
Senior E’Lease Stafford, sophomore Olivia Wikstrom and junior Adryana Quezada all pulled down 10 rebounds as the Aggies won the battle of the boards with a 49-36 advantage.
Utah State was able to take advantage of Dixie State’s lack of depth during the game as the Trailblazers only traveled eight players to Logan, with each starter playing at least 35 minutes.
USU scored the first eight points of the contest before the Trailblazers made their first basket with just over six minutes to play in the first quarter. However, the Aggie defense continued to stymie the Dixie State offense as Utah State scored 11 unanswered points to take a 19-2 lead with 2:31 left in the period. The Aggies ultimately finished the first quarter with a 23-9 lead, marking the fewest points allowed by USU over the opening 10 minutes this season.
“I thought we came out and had a great first quarter,” Randhawa said. “That was something we’ve been struggling with is coming out strong. We did that tonight, which we’re really happy about… We just have to put together 40 minutes of good basketball which we’re still working on doing.”
Dixie State began to find its groove in the second quarter, trimming the Utah State advantage to four points with 11 seconds to play before the half. A final layup by Randhawa with time expiring gave the Aggies a 39-33 advantage going into intermission.
Free throws by Randhawa and an offensive outback by Hawthorne to open the third quarter put the Aggies back up by double-digits, 43-33. Dixie State only got as close as six points over the final 20 minutes as back-to-back baskets by Hawthorne and Randhawa early in the fourth quarter put the Aggies up by double digits for good.
“This team, they have a lot of heart,” Ard said, “and they normally have it in the fourth quarter, which is great, but very stressful to coach and stressful for the fans. We have to figure out a way to bottle that up earlier. We can’t wait until the fourth quarter. That’s going to get us in some games… We have to figure out a way to have that heart for 40 minutes and we’re not quite there yet but we’re working on it and getting better every day.”
Utah State finished the game shooting a season-high 47.2 percent (34-of-72) from the floor and held the Trailblazers to 34.3-percent shooting (23-of-67), a season low for an Aggie opponent this year.
“We all love each other off the court. It’s great camaraderie,” Randhawa said. “On the court, we’re starting to figure it out a little bit more… Just taking it one game at a time. This one is over with and now we have to travel over to UTEP and focus on them, learn the scouting report, get ready for them and just take each game one-by-one.”
USU takes to the road for its next contest, facing UTEP in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 1 p.m. (MT).
Fans can follow USU women’s basketball on Twitter, @USUWBasketball, on Instagram, @USUWBasketball, as well as on Facebook, at /USUWBB. Aggie fans can also follow Utah State Athletics on Twitter, @USUAthletics, on Instagram, @USUAthletics and on Facebook at /USUAthletics.