The Utah Valley Wolverines women’s basketball team had a few firsts in 2020-21. It was the first time since joining the WAC that the Wolverines finished with 10 conference wins. And it was the first time in program history that the Wolverines went to the NCAA Tournament. Yes, there are some dramatics regarding that trip to the Big Dance.
With CBU winning last season’s WAC Tournament, the regular season runner up earned the WAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. That honor went to the Wolverines who, by percentage points, finished 2nd over GCU in the regular season standings. If that wasn’t enough, GCU then beat the Wolverines in the WAC semifinals which caused a ruckus. Either way, the Wolverines played in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Although Utah Valley fell to Stanford in the first round, there is plenty for Utah Valley and head coach Dan Nielson to build off of heading into the 2021-22 season.
Dan Nielson, 3rd season
Overall: 25-23 Overall
In Orem: 25-23 Overall, 19-10 WAC
2020-21: 13-7 Overall, 10-4 WAC (2nd Place)
Postseason: Lost in WAC Tournament semifinals & NCAA Tournament 1st round
Maria Carvalho, 5’8, JR, G
Josie Williams, 6’5, JR, C
Shay Fano, 6’0, SO, G
Kayla Anderson, 5’7, JR, G
Nehaa Sohail, 6’2, RSJR, F (Medical)
Tahlia White, 6’0, RSFR, G (BYU)
Babalu Ugwu, 6’0, JR, F (BYU)
Projected WAC Finish
Josie Williams, Maria Carvalho, and Shay Fano all return to Orem in 2021-22 in pursuit of a WAC title. The Wolverines need the experience back as the top teams in the WAC return nearly everyone from the 2020-21 season.
Williams was the team’s leading scorer at 14.2 points per game (shooting 53% from the field) while adding 8.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.7 assists per contest.
Carvalho was the 2nd leading scorer at 12.9 points per game (31% from three) & added 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.6 steals a game.
Fano was the team’s second leading rebounder at 6.7 per game and runner up in assists at 56 (2.8 per contest).
They were all among the top 20 in minutes played a season ago with Carvalho and Fano in the conference’s top-5 (3rd and 4th respectively).
As a team, the Wolverines were 21st nationally in assists at 16.5 per game. They’ll need to improve upon an offense which averaged 61 points per game to be considered a title contender. Another area of concern is their turnover margin which was +48 on the year. The biggest key is having someone else besides Maria Carvalho to handle the basketball. If you watched film on the Wolverines, when teams double-teamed Carvalho, or kept the ball out of her hands, the Wolverines were in trouble. Kayla Anderson and Shay Fano have to step up. The addition of Tahlia White will relieve some pressure. UVU can beat teams if it takes care of the basketball.
Immediate Impact Transfers
Nielson and his staff pulled in a pair of transfers from BYU in Tahlia White and Babalu Ugwu.
“Our staff is thrilled to have Tahlia join our program,” Nielson said in a press release. “She adds size and skill on the wing for us and is a great shooter and passer who loves to play defense so she’s a perfect fit for us. We can’t wait to get her on campus and working with our team.”
White appeared in eighteen games last season at BYU scoring eight points against Pacific. Ugwu appeared in 63 games over two-plus years at BYU averaging 3.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game.
“We are ecstatic that Babalu will be joining our Wolverine family,” Nielson said. “I have known her for several years and know that she will be an asset to our program both on and off the court. Her ability to score in the post, rebound and defend multiple positions will make an immediate impact on our team. Wolverine fans are going to love seeing her compete next fall.”