2019 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day

2019 Pac-12 Women's Basketball Media Day: UCLA's Cori Close dishes out praise for Utah Utes' rise

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SAN FRANCISCO — UCLA’s Cori Close has always been one to lift up her fellow Pac-12 competitors. Her podium session Monday at 2019 Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Media Day was no different.

Asked to pick a dark horse in the deep Pac-12 race, Close didn’t hesitate. Lynn Roberts’ Utah squad is talented and perhaps being overlooked, Close told the media.

The Utes were picked to finish seventh by the league's coaches after winning 20 games for the first time since 2012-13 last season.

“I think Lynne Roberts does such a great job, and I think what they’re building and their ability [is exciting],” Close said. “And I love the way that Salt Lake is coming alongside of them, as well, as their attendance numbers have really grown. But they're a team that comes to mind right off the bat.”

Close added that the Utes “could really make a surge.”

As for the Utes' perspective? They feel primed to build on their best campaign yet under Roberts. Utah is still looking for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since joining the Pac-12 but will benefit from the return of wing Daneesha Provo, who was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility during the offseason.

"Everything has improved over the four years," said Roberts, who is in entering her fifth season in Salt Lake City. "Our recruiting has improved, our attendance is up 500 percent. Everything is getting better. ... It's so tempting to think of last season as the year that could have been. We have to switch that, flip the coin and say it was the year of so many firsts."

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