Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Anthony Levrets felt his team had done everything it needed to beat visiting Arizona State on Friday night.
The Utah women’s basketball team handled the Sun Devils’ full-court pressure, hit shots, and, with the exception of the final play, effectively executed its game plan.
But when the buzzer sounded, Arizona State was in front, defeating the Utes 65-62 at the Huntsman Center.
“I am really disappointed in the outcome of this game,” said Levrets, the Utes’ head coach. “At the end of a game like that, circumstances happen that are out of your control. I thought we did everything we needed to do to win the game, which is a very unfortunate ending.”
With 1:31 left on the game clock, starting Utah guard Ciera Dunbar was fouled on a 3-pointer and hit all three free throws to pull the Utes into striking distance, 60-58.
At the other end 15 seconds later, Dunbar was called for her fifth foul and Adrianne Thomas made one free throw for the Sun Devils.
After two Danielle Rodriguez layups gave the Utes a one-point lead, 62-61, with 14 seconds remaining, Utah freshman Emily Potter was called for her fifth foul.
Arizona State forward Sophie Brunner hit two free throws as the Sun Devils regained the lead.
Utah inbounded the ball with 3.9 seconds left, and as Rodriguez moved into the frontcourt, the ball was knocked out of bounds. It was returned to the Sun Devils.
Utah was forced to foul and Katie Hempen hit two free throws to extend ASU's lead to 65-62. Miscommunication doomed the Utes’ final possession and the game ended with an intercepted pass.
“At the end, two people fouled out (and were replaced by players) that have not ever executed something at the end of a game like that,” Levrets said. “Our execution was not good on the very last play of the game. However, up to that point, we had executed very well handling their pressure and getting the ball where we wanted it.”
The entire second half was filled with foul calls and foul shots. Arizona State and Utah combined to shoot 37 free throws in the second half after just three total free throws were attempted in the first 20 minutes. The Utes finished with 23 team fouls, while the Sun Devils committed 19 with all 11 players receiving at least one.
“It’s tough to adjust to the new fouls,” said Utah forward Michelle Plouffe, who had three fouls. “When it’s called like this, it’s hard to get into rhythm and it’s hard to play. In lots of ways, it’s hard to guard like that when everything’s a foul, and offensively you really can’t find rhythm.”
In spite of the constant stops, Plouffe led the team with 22 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Rodriguez finished with 11 points and Potter had nine with six boards.
Deja Mann and Hempen led Arizona State with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
Utah, now 8-10 overall and 1-6 in Pac-12 play, will return to the Huntsman Center on Sunday for a visit from Arizona in a 3 p.m. tipoff.
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.
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