Jeffrey D. Allred,
Utah Utes head coach Lynne Roberts shouts instruction in Salt Lake City on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017.
When it came down to mattering, they showed up, and I’m particularly proud of that. —Utah head coach Lynne Roberts

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah head coach Lynne Roberts didn’t spend a lot of the halftime break trying to figure out why Utah wasn’t playing like a team that wanted to earn its first Pac-12 road sweep Sunday at Washington State.

She simply issued her players a challenge.

“We had an opportunity to get our first-ever road sweep in the Pac-12 and go 3-1 and just continue our progress, and we were sloppy, kind of flat defensively,” Roberts said after Utah used a fourth-quarter comeback to secure an 81-79 victory over Washington State Sunday. “We weren’t executing any of the stuff we’d planned on or talked about. It’s not like it was complicated. … We were getting beat to loose balls, rebounds, we just weren’t playing with any sort of purpose.”

Utah was being outplayed in all the ways that mattered, and so Roberts just asked her team if this was the season they wanted.

“I just challenged them to have some pride, to play with purpose,” Roberts said. “Just quit being OK with being average.”

The team answered that challenge with an impressive second-half comeback that included four players scoring in double digits and the Utes out-rebounding the Cougars 50-32.

Daneesha Provo led the team with 22 points, while Megan Huff added 14 points and seven rebounds. Emily Potter and Erika Bean each scored 11 points, with Potter adding eight rebounds and Provo grabbed nine of those boards.

It was, in fact, the play of those post players that helped turn the game in Utah’s favor, Roberts said.

“Daneesha has been great,” she said. “She’s the second-leading scorer in the Pac-12, and she’s just been steady. But Potter and Huff, who we really do rely on, were not effective for three quarters. That fourth quarter, Potter had eight points and seven offensive rebounds. When it came down to mattering, they showed up, and I’m particularly proud of that.”

The Utes battled through foul trouble and offensive struggles to outscore Washington State 21-12 in the fourth quarter and take a 78-77 lead with less than two minutes on the game clock on a 3-point play from Potter. Utah managed to outscore Washington State 7-0 in those closing minutes to earn the victory and its first Pac-12 road sweep since joining the conference.

Roberts told her team, which hosts UCLA Friday night at the Huntsman Center (8 p.m.) and USC on Sunday at noon, that it isn’t important why or how they started so sluggishly Sunday.

“We got the win and figured out how to do that,” she said. “That’s maturity for us as a team and progress for us as a program.”