By Ashley Springer
With the game tied at 66 in the middle of the fourth quarter, sophomore Utah State University guard Funda Nakkasoglu told her teammates to do their jobs.
And that’s just what they did, as the USU women’s basketball team went on to win 78-70 against the University of Pacific on Saturday night at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum.
The job Nakkasoglu reminded her teammates about was to beat Pacific in three statistics: rebounds, free throws and turnovers.
“It’s pretty proven we win three of those, we got a really good chance of winning,” said USU coach Jerry Finkbeiner.
Senior forward Tijana Djukic said rebounding has been the emphasis this week.
“Coach had been getting on Tijana and some of the other bigs to get those rebounds… so they’re expected to do that and they did,” Nakkasoglu said. “They did their job today. Everyone did their job today — that’s why we got the win.”
The Aggies out-rebounded Pacific 49 to 34. Djukic led the team with a career high of 15 rebounds but every USU player had at least one.
Free throws also proved to be key in the game as the Aggies’ final nine points came from the line. The Aggies trailed 69-70 after a layup by Pacific’s senior guard Hailie Eackles with about 3:30 left in the game, but Pacific’s early foul trouble put the Aggies on the line five times in the final 3 minutes. Freshman guard Victoria Price secured the win by making two free throws with 18 seconds left in the game.
The Aggies made 22 of 26 free throw attempts on the night.
Nakkasoglu went 13 of 14 from the free throw line and scored almost half of USU’s points with a career high of 37. Djukic tied her career high of 14 points and recorded her second career double-double while freshman guard Rachel Brewster also scored in double figures with 11 points.
The Aggies shot at 36.2 percent on the night.
“We didn’t shoot real good tonight percentage-wise,” Finkbeiner said, “but the rebounding and the low turnovers was definitely the difference of the game statistically.”
The Aggies won the turnover battle with 10 turnovers compared to Pacific’s 13. The Aggies did not have a single turnover in the second half.
“That’s unbelievable in men’s or women’s basketball to have a half that clean with the type of defense that was playing against us,” Finkbeiner said.
Price led the Aggies with four assists while freshman guard Katie Toole led with two steals. There were three USU players with one block each.
“We were just listening to the coaches and doing our job,” Djukic said. “Everyone stepped up.”
Pacific was led by Eackles’ 24 points and junior forward Eli Lopez Sagrera’s 18. Sagrera also led the team with nine rebounds and one steal. Sophomore guard Najah Queenland led with five assists and had the team’s only block.
The win moved the Aggies’ record to 2-1.
“We knew we wanted it from the get-go and although we are young, we pushed through, we pulled together, and we knew what we wanted and we got it,” Nakkasoglu said.