We were just not aggressive. I don’t know why, that’s all we talked about. —Utah head coach Lynne Roberts
SALT LAKE CITY — After winning its first Pac-12 game in a blowout against Arizona, the Utah women’s basketball team (10-3, 1-1 Pac-12) fell in a close game, losing 83-81 to Arizona State (11-3, 2-0 Pac-12) in a contest that came down to the last seconds.
“I’m proud of our team for fighting back. We were down 17 at one point, I thought we did a pretty good job. The start of the game just crushed us, and every time we play Arizona State it seems to be the same story,” Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said. “We get down and we are just scrapping and clawing our way back into it.”
Kianna Ibis led the Sun Devils with 30 points, while Megan Huff scored 22 to lead Utah and Daneesha Provo added 18 points.
What ultimately doomed Utah was a slow start in the opening quarter, as Arizona State opened the game on a 13-2 run, shot a scorching 78 percent from the field and tallied 34 points in the first 10 minutes of action, while Utah put up 19 points.
“We were just not aggressive. I don’t know why, that’s all we talked about,” Roberts said of the first quarter.
“I just felt like Arizona (State) just attacked us, and we kind of backed up a little,” Provo said.
“It was like we were intimidated or something to start,” Roberts added.
Utah countered in the second quarter with an 8-2 run, and outscored the Sun Devils 17-9 in the period.
“We picked up our pressure, we picked up who we are defensively and then they (ASU) started missing shots,” Roberts said.
In the third quarter, the Utes cut the Arizona State lead to single digits time after time, but couldn’t get over the hump and take the lead. Utah held Arizona State scoreless for nearly three minutes while making 5 of 7 field goals, cutting the lead to just four after a Megan Huff layup. After a 3-pointer by Robbi Ryan late in third quarter, Arizona State led by seven.
Provo brought the Utes within five with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Sophia Elenga and Ibis hit three straight layups to push the Devils' lead back up. A layup by Huff and a corner 3-pointer by Provo cut the lead to four with three minutes remaining. Tyler Clark split a pair of free throws to bring the Utes within three with a minute and a half, then Provo stole the ball and converted an and-one layup to tie the game at 77 with 1:11 remaining. Jamie Ruden countered with a top-of-the-key 3-pointer to give the lead back to Arizona State.
Clark was fouled on an inbounds play with 45 seconds left, and converted her two free throws to make it a one-point game. The Utes then forced a turnover to get the ball with 30 seconds left. Huff was fouled spinning to the basket, and sunk both shots to give Utah a one-point lead — its first of the game.
Ruden scored on a layup with nine seconds left to give the Devils a one-point lead heading into the final possession. Utah threw the ball away on the last possession, Elenga hit one of her two free throws after being found and Erika Bean missed an off-balance, last-second 3-pointer for the win.
“I really thought we had a chance to win it there at the end. I thought momentum was definitely in our favor. They made a good play, we had a tough turnover, but to be in that situation shows that we have some toughness and it’s a learning game for us for sure,” Roberts said.
For Utah, Roberts says “the sky isn’t falling” after its first Pac-12 loss. The Utes will regroup and head to Washington, where they will face Washington and Washington State on Friday and Sunday, respectively.
“I think we’ll get better from this. It sucks, losing, but ASU is a really good team and I think, if anything, that this gives us a taste of our potential,” Roberts said.