Women's Basketball Surges Past Utah, 63-55

Dec. 8, 2001

EUGENE, Ore. - The first 10 minutes looked like the makings of a Utah blowout Saturday. In the next 30, the University of Oregon women's basketball team played its best basketball to date this season, as the Ducks overcame a 14-point first-half deficit to win 63-55 over Utah before 4,366 fans at McArthur Court.

Utah (4-3), which received votes in the top 25 polls this week, jumped out to a 24-10 lead with 5:33 left in the first half, capped by Erin Gibbons' third 3-pointer. During that stretch, the Utes held the Ducks to just one basket in over a seven-minute span.

Then, junior guard Shaquala Williams and the Ducks woke up. Spurred by a relentless defense, Oregon put the clamps on Utah while Williams made three consecutive shots, including a 3-pointer, and bounced a pass from the wing to Andrea Bills for an easy lay-in to cut Utah's lead to 27-25 with 51 seconds on the clock.

'We shut them down and didn't allow them to score,' first-year Oregon coach Bev Smith said. 'That momentum carried into our offense. We got some big transition scores which are so important.'

The trend continued in the second half for the Ducks. Oregon took its first lead of the game at 36-34 on an Edniesha Curry 3-pointer with 15:37 remaining, a lead in which it didn't relinquish. Alyssa Fredrick caught fire for Oregon in the final 12 minutes, scoring all of her 14 points during that span, which included hitting 6 of 6 from the free-throw line. Oregon extended its lead to 57-45 on two Fredrick free throws at the three-minute mark.

'Their quickness was the difference,' Utah coach Elaine Elliott said. 'They made too many plays for us to counteract-a steal, a strip or a block.That's the best team we've played (this year).'

Oregon, winners of three straight and four of its last five, improved to 5-3 on the season.

Williams scored a team-high 19 points for the Ducks, hitting 8 of 15 from the floor. She also dished out three assists, swiped three steals, blocked a shot and committed no turnovers. She stands four points shy of becoming the 16th Duck to reach 1,000 points.

Utah's Erin Gibbons scored 13 of her game-high 20 points in the first half and nailed 5 of 8 from 3-point range-several from up to three feet behind the line. She made just one 3-pointer after halftime.

Fredrick and Curry led Oregon with seven rebounds each and helped the Ducks outrebound the Utes 36-33. Oregon also had seven blocked shots for the third time this year.

The Ducks also were perfect from the foul line, converting all 14 attempts-two short of the school record.

'We had a hard time sticking to our game plan early on,' Smith said. 'We seemed kind of nervous and shy for playing at Mac Court. But we turned that corner tonight.'

Oregon hits the road to take on Brigham Young on Wednesday. Tipoff is at 3:30 p.m. PST.

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