DENVER – The University of Denver women’s basketball team struggled early against Utah Valley, but a strong second half quickly changed things around, as the Pioneers won 72-53 inside Hamilton Gymnasium on Tuesday afternoon.
DU improved to 9-7 (0-1 SL) on the campaign, while the Wolverines fell to 6-9 in 2017-18.
Only leading by six, 30-24 at the half, Denver came out to start the third quarter hot, as the team scored 10 unanswered points to push the advantage to 16 points. Freshman Grace White (Red Lake Nation) led the way over the first four minutes of the period, tallying five of the 10 points.
Guiding the Crimson and Gold to victory was Jordyn Alt, as the senior recorded 16 points and 10 rebounds for her second double-double on the season.
In her first career start, White had a strong performance for the team scoring 14 points. The Red Lakes, Minn. native also added six boards and four assists. Also finishing the day in double digits was Jasmine Jeffcoat, who etched 11 points against Utah Valley.
As a team, the Pioneers shot an improved 47.5 percent (28-for-59) from the field but struggled from deep, only shooting 17.6 percent (3-for-17). The squad grabbed 48 rebounds, handed out 21 assists and forced 15 turnovers in the win.
After nearly three minutes of scoreless action, DU finally got on the board thanks to a putback from Madison Nelson.
Quick to respond, Utah Valley collected a trey from Alexis Cortez, giving the Wolverines their first advantage of the game.
A steal from Ciera Morgan that led to a breakaway layup for Alt started a 6-2 run for the Pioneers, their first of the contest. However, another 3 from UVU on its next possession regained momentum for the visiting team.
The Wolverines continued to lead at the end of the first period, 15-13 thanks to an old-fashion three-point play from Mariah Seals.
Into the second, four straight points from Seals put Utah Valley up 21-17, as the guests continued to control the game.
A Morgan layup, assisted by Claire Gritt tied the game at 21 with five and half minutes to play until the break. The basket started a 6-0 run for the Crimson and Gold and gave the squad their first lead of the quarter.
Denver earned its biggest margin of the half, 28-22 thanks to a 3 from Abi Curtin. The Sydney, Australia native added two more before the break to keep the distance at six heading into the locker room.
Ushering the way for DU through the first 20 minutes was Jeffcoat, who chalked up nine points on shooting 60 percent (3-for-5) from the field. As a team, the Crimson and Gold shot 34.6 percent (9-for-26) from field-goal range and 33.3 percent (2-for-6) from downtown.
As a team, the Pioneers had 15 rebounds, forced nine turnovers and had four assists in the first two periods.
Denver started the second half hot, as White and Samantha Romanowski hit back-to-back triples to put the team up by 12. DU continued to score through the first four minutes of the third, as the squad tallied a 12-5 run to start the period.
The run for the Crimson and Gold continued to build through the quarter and a lay-in from Gritt with less than two minutes in the period pushed the run to 25-11. At the end of the third, the Pioneers led by 18, 55-37.
Not going away without a fight, Utah Valley’s Cortez drained a 3 three to start the fourth and cut the Pioneer edge to 15.
The Wolverines then sliced the margin to only 12, but a short Alt jumper followed by a deep 3 from White put DU back up by 18. Denver went up by 20 on the following possession, as Gritt scored two off an assist from Alt.
Utah Valley was able to get the advantage down to 17 points with less than three minutes to play, but the deficit was just too much to overcome.
The Crimson and Gold return to Summit League action on Saturday, as they travel to Fort Wayne to face the Mastodons.