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SALT LAKE CITY — It took a whole 22 seconds for Brynna Maxwell to drain a 3-pointer after the tip off; and it took 22 seconds for Utah to get the first and only lead of the game Friday night as the Utes never looked back.
The Utes held Cincinnati to just 30% shooting on the game and outrebounded their opponent 59-33 as they strolled to a 78-45 win over the Bearcats at the Huntsman Center.
After Maxwell's first basket of the game, sophomore guard Kennady McQueen went on a 8-0 run by herself, scoring a backdoor layup and hitting back-to-back 3's on the right wing to give her team an early 11-0 lead. McQueen led all scorers with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting and added six rebounds and two steals in a short 22 minutes on the court.
"I feel like I've been through a little shooting slump the last game and then in practice," McQueen said. "So just getting that back together and taking what the defense gave."
Although McQueen led the Utes in scoring, it was her hustle plays and rebounding that head coach Lynn Roberts was more impressed with in the end.
"I think the other stuff that Kennedy brings, though: how many times did she sneak down with a rebound underneath the basket when Cincinnati thought they had it wrapped up?" Roberts said. "I would hate to have Kennedy around if I'm trying to pull down a rebound.
"She didn't shoot it great last game, but I love the confidence to come back and let it fly in that first minute. That's the sign of someone that's put in the work to be confident."
In the first quarter, the Utes held a 15-3 rebounding advantage and held the Bearcats to 25% shooting from the floor, which helped Utah get out to a 14-point lead after 10 minutes of play. After a season where the Utes were near the bottom of all rebounding statistics in the Pac-12, it was clear from the tip that rebounding and cleaning up the glass were — and has been this season — an emphasis from Roberts and her staff.
"They're starting to understand why rebounding's so critical to being a good team, and they're buying in. I think they also know if they're not gonna do it, they probably won't play," Roberts said. "So it's an emphasis today, tomorrow, until Jesus comes; it's gonna be the emphasis."
Dasia Young, who only scored 2 points by going a perfect 2-of-2 from the foul line, played a vital role in her team's rebounding efforts. She led all players with 12 rebounds, 10 of which were pulled down in the first quarter.
"I really don't think about scoring much at all; it's like I try to, of course, but I'm a big effort person. Before I even think about shots or if they're going in, I just know I need to give 110% and whatever happens will happen," Young said. "I'm on a team full of great shooters, so I know of course if I get a rebound, if I don't score, somebody is going to score, so it's kind of like rewarding either way."
"What Dasia brings is what you're seeing in the score," Roberts added. "Everyone loves playing with her, too, which is fun because she makes you better. She's not trying to get hers, like she said; and she's not afraid on defense either. Whoever the best player is, she's wanting to guard them, even if it's a 6-5 center."
The Utes have won four-straight games to start the season, with the smallest margin of victory coming against Cincinnati — 33 points. During the red-hot start, minutes have been extended to all players on the roster and the scoring attack has been a balanced effort. It's the unselfishness and effort of the Utes that has been seen in the early season that makes Roberts excited for games to come.
"We continue to have a lot of assists — 21 assists on 31 baskets. It's continually been that ratio of 60-70% of our baskets are assisted. So it's that unselfishness," Roberts said. "And then the effort piece: the rebounding, the 50-50 balls, all that stuff that we're talking about. ... We had 59 rebounds; that's effort. I'm proud of those two things: the unselfishness and the buy-in with playing their guts out."
The Utes will take their hot-streak to Honolulu, Hawaii, over the Thanksgiving weekend where they will have the challenge of playing three games in three days against Gonzaga, Hawaii, and Eastern Illinois. They will then return to the Huntsman Center on Saturday, Dec. 4, to take on BYU.