Like UH, Utah State in transition
by Stanley Lee
Advertiser Staff Writer
Full of youth and belief, Utah State's women's basketball team is continuing to build its program.
After losing four seniors from last year's team, this year's youthful group of Aggies (10-7, 2-2 Western Athletic Conference) with just three seniors believe they are league contenders.
"To be in a situation where we got a team that believes that they can compete for a WAC championship and a coaching staff that really supports them in that and can visualize it with them, that's definitely a place we like to see ourselves at," said Utah State coach Raegan Pebley, whose team plays Hawai'i (7-10, 1-3 WAC) today at the Stan Sheriff Center.
In her sixth season with Utah State, Pebley is the school's only coach since the program was revived for the 2003-04 season after it was dropped in 1987. Last year's 16 wins were the most in her tenure.
Growing pains were evident in some losses this year, but there was also a big 69-66 win at Louisiana Tech, one of the teams picked to win the WAC, that was part of a six-game win streak.
"Whether you're a WAC school or an SEC school, it's a tough place to go and win and not many people have done that in the last 25-plus years," Pebley said.
She described the win as a team effort with different players stepping up at different times, and it came during one of the WAC's more competitive years. She cited San Jose State's and New Mexico State's wins over ranked teams, and Hawai'i's win over Kansas State, which has made eight straight postseason trips.
"A lot of big wins for our conference," Pebley said. "It's a good time and a good thing for our program right now, competing when the rest of the conference has elevated its game."
Freshman reserve guard Pualei Furtado, a Kamehameha graduate, had five points in Saturday's loss at Fresno State. She has played in nine of 17 games.
"She's invested in the program, she's a person that everybody likes, she makes our practices better, and she's even played some minutes as a freshman and we're really deep at the guard spot, but she's competing," Pebley said. "I think she's got a good future in this league."