Role Players Shined Over The Weekend For Utah Women’s Basketball, Red Rocks

Jan 30, 2023, 10:20 AM

SALT LAKE CITY –ย It was a big weekend up on the hill for Utah women’s basketball and the Red Rocks as they hosted ranked opponents in the Huntsman Center. The Utes prevailed thanks to some key performances from role players on both teams in a total depth chart flex.

That’s not to say that the usual suspects for both teams were absent because they definitely made their presence known too, but more that others had opportunities to showcase what they can do and why they are valuable assets to their respective teams as well.

As a result, both Utah women’s basketball and the Red Rocks currently sit in the Top-10 of their respective sports and it’s easy to see why when you have a great mixture of steady forces paired with a roster full of athletes that can go off on any given day.

Utah Women’s Basketball

For the women’s basketball team, it was forwards Kelsey Rees in Friday’s matchup against the USC Trojans and Dasia Young in the Utes’ Top-10 Showdown against No.8 UCLA on Sunday who stood out from the usual suspects.

Head coach Lynne Roberts was quick in both post-game press conferences to credit her athletes for having critical key-moments that helped push Utah into the win column for both games.

With Rees it was all about her defensive hustle against USC that was the difference maker. the 6’5″ forward added four points for the Utes, but it was her four defensive rebounds and a key block that really stood out in her 13 minutes of play.

“I thought the unsung hero tonight was Kelsey Rees,” Roberts said after beating USC. “I thought she was phenomenal. She only played 13 minutes, but they were huge. She was plus-12 in those 13 minutes, and I thought she did a really good job.”

“In practice, she’s just playing with a lot more confidence,” Roberts continued of Rees. “What I love and appreciate about Kelsey is that she totally and fully buys into her role. It takes players like that to have a complete team. She knows she is coming in for Alissa [Pili]. She knows Alissa’s job, accepts it, cheers for her and then comes in and does her thing. When you have players like that who fully embrace their role, and they have success in it, I think it kind of snowballs.”

In Sunday’s contest against the Bruins that literally came down to the wire, Young was a force shooting the three, while also getting back on defense and sticking with her person like glue. Young contributed 11 points in 24 minutes of play going 4-8 from the field and 3-6 from the three. She also chipped in two defensive rebounds, three assists, and one block that helped keep the Utes in striking distance for much of the game despite trailing.

“Dasia Young was huge today,” Roberts said after Utah’s thriller against UCLA. “If she doesn’t play, I don’t think we win. She kind of carried us in that first half and defensively down the stretch she was phenomenal. Just give her a shoutout to how important she was to us winning today. It’s the sign of a great team when you have players who can fill needs when you need it.”

Roberts was asked to explain what exactly Young brings to the team that maybe doesn’t always show up on the stats sheet and she had a laundry list.

“She’s really athletic, strong and explosive,” Roberts said. “Her pursuit to loose balls, her ability to climb the ladder and go get boards, she’s a lock-up defender. All of that stuff doesn’t show up. She is tough. She’ll fight ya- figuratively, like she’s not going to back down. She’s just a competitor and you need people like that to win against really good teams. She’s invaluable.”

The Red Rocks

For Utah gymnastics it was all about specialists Jillian Hoffman and Abby Brenner on Saturday afternoon against No. 25 Washington.

Hoffman only competes on vault right now for the Utes after she suffered a season-ending achilles injury last year. On Saturday she ripped off a beautiful 1.5 complete with stuck landing in the anchor spot that earned her a career-high 9.950.

It also happened to be the first time ever Hoffman had competed that particular skill and she nearly brought the house down due to the excitement over her continued come-back success.

“The last two weeks she’s been on fire,” head coach Tom Farden said. “She has a knack and ability to work through that table. I think Grace [McCallum] has it too, Makenna [Smith] does too, so that back half…It was really, really awesome to see Jillian’s rewards for her self-belief and determination.”

Brenner has been a boost of energy for the Red Rocks on vault and bars, but in Saturday’s contest against the Huskies, she also got to try her hand at floor with the same results. The single season transfer from Michigan earned a solid score of 9.875, but it was more about bringing her “let’s go!” attitude to the event which had been missing a little beforehand.

“Floor is one event that we are still tinkering with and bars too,” Farden said. “I’m still tinkering with stuff over there and Abby is just gotten better and better on her mechanics, so it felt like the right moment. I also believe she is one of those athletes that inspires us. I believe having her in that lineup is a good vibe. You can see it. The kid’s energy is just unreal.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.โ€“12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @BodkinKSLsports



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Role Players Shined Over The Weekend For Utah Women’s Basketball, Red Rocks