SALT LAKE CITY — It did not take long for Utah freshman Emily Potter to find her NCAA basketball legs.
The 6-foot-5 freshman powered the Utes to a 73-56 season-opening victory over Denver at the Huntsman Center on Friday evening, leading the team in scoring for the second time in the young season, which, including the exhibition victory over the University of Mary, is only two games old.
“She is a big kid and a very talented kid,” Utah coach Anthony Levrets said of Potter prior to the season opener. “She is going to get to play, and she is going be learning on the fly.”
The young player from Manitoba, Canada, has been thrown into the starting lineup because two anticipated starters — Taryn Wicijowski and Paige Crozan — have been sidelined for the season with injuries.
Potter notched 16 points and grabbed two rebounds Friday, while senior veteran Michelle Plouffe added 15 points and nine rebounds as the Utes pulled away with a 18-4 run in the middle of the second half.
The Pioneers scored first and then quickly jumped out to a six-point lead less than four minutes into the game. It did not take long for the Utes to regain their footing and pull to within a single point, but Utah could not take the lead until there were just two minutes remaining in the opening half.
The teams traded baskets until the break, with the Utes taking a 31-29 lead into the locker room at intermission.
Returning junior Ciera Dunbar scored the first Utah basket of the second half, and the Utes never looked back.
Dunbar finished the game with 10 points, six assists and four rebounds, while sophomore point guard Danielle Rodriguez had 10 points, six assists and five boards. Freshman Malia Nawahine, a Springville High graduate, also recorded 10 points and Devri Owens finished with nine.
The Utes’ next game is against No. 17-ranked Nebraska at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 15, at the Huntsman Center. It will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.