LOGAN – Utah State women’s basketball opened up the Aggie b-ball season with a quality 75-58 victory over the College of Idaho in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Monday afternoon.
The Aggies began the game about as hot as hot gets. They went up 26-11 after the first quarter and built a lead as much as 24 (37-13) mid-way through the second quarter. USU were 4-of-6 from three in the first quarter, led by the hot-handed Cristina Oliva who started a perfect 3-for-3 from deep in that first quarter and made her first four triples overall.
Getting that hot from deep was a welcome sight for the players as they had a bone to pick with the perception that got passed around after the exhibition. The Aggies didn’t shoot particularly well in that game and weren’t happy that that was the impression they left with fans. The team know its capabilities as shooters and wanted to show that.
“I just want to point out that we’re not a bad shooting team,” graduate guard Maria Carvalho said. “We just had a bad start that’s it. We can shoot the crap out of the ball. ”
The flaming start didn’t hold, but the 9-of-23 (39.1 percent) mark from three was much better than the 7-for-30 (23.3 percent) in the exhibition and likely more indicative of what this year’s team is capable of than that first outing.
Overall, the first quarter was the epitome of everything the Aggies wanted to show in the game. They forced five turnovers, generated points off those plays and shot the ball well. After the first quarter, though, things began to tail off. Fatigue set in during the second and third quarters as the effort began to wane on defense and shooting efficiency began to drop.
“We could have done better. We settled,” Carvalho said. “Like we’re winning by 20 and we’re like ‘ah, just drop the energy’ and we could have done more. We’ve got to work on the little details and keep up the energy and just stay at the same level and be consistent all the time.”
Both Carvalho and Oliva said the potential of this team is incredibly high if it were able to play like it did in the first quarter in every quarter going forward.
“If we keep the same energy, consistency, effort that we had on defense and offensively we’re gonna win every single game,” Carvalho said.
“If we keep that momentum the whole game I truthfully think not a lot of teams are going to be able to keep up with us,” Oliva said.
Despite the fatigue and lesser execution, the Aggies finished the game strong. They won every quarter and did the things that mattered in the few moments where things actually mattered.
“It’s gonna happen, we’re gonna get fatigued at times,” Ard said. “But you’ve got to learn to push through it and have that mental toughness to get you over the hump. But I’m proud of the girls. Overall I think that they locked in when they needed to. ”
Carvalho was huge in pacing the Aggies despite a mediocre night shooting (6-for-17 from the field). She led the team in field goal attempts, minutes played (34), rebounds (nine), assists (five), was second in points (14) and was tied for second in steals (three). Everything went through her.
“Maria’s our engine,” Ard said. “It starts with here and she wants to pick up at half court and get in somebody and it starts with her.”
Ard didn’t limit her praise to Carvalho, also noting the efforts of Tamia Robinson, Oliva, Olivia Wikstrom and the post players, Abby Wahl and Prima Chellis. Wahl didn’t produce the biggest stat line – nine points and five rebounds – but was +28 in her plus/minus which was by far the best mark on the team (Robinson was second with +16).
Oliva led all scorers in the game with 17 points, nailing 5-of-7 threes and was joined in scoring double-figures by Carvalho, Mayson Kimball (10) and Chellis (10).
The Aggies are now 3-0 in season openers under Ard, but the season-opening victories didn’t help USU the previous two seasons where it went a combined 15-39. And after the game, Ard said her message to the team was to “not be satisfied” with this win.
“The question will be when something doesn’t go our way how do we respond to that. That’ll be the big task for us,” Ard said. “When we do lose a game, how do we respond to that? And that’s when when we’ve really got to work to stay together. I hope that doesn’t happen all year but just in case it does we’ll have to adjust to that at that point.”
USU will play its next game on Friday in the Spectrum against Southeastern Louisiana, which is where Ard player her college ball from 2004-06. That game will tip off at 3 p.m. and is the first half of a double-header with the USU men’s team who also play that night in the Spectrum.