We just have to stay the course, we’re 5-5 (in conference play) and if we go .500 in this league, we’ve got a good chance to make the NCAA Tournament, and that is still in front of us. —Utah head coach Lynne Roberts
SALT LAKE CITY — Oregon guard Maite Cazorla scored 21 points and Sabrina Ionescu added 19 as the seventh-ranked Ducks defeated Utah Sunday afternoon at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, 84-68.
For the Utes, the weekend, which started with a loss to No. 17 Oregon State on Friday and came after Utah swept the Arizona schools on the road, was a reminder of life in the Pac-12, a conference that has five teams in the AP Top 25.
“We just have to stay the course, we’re 5-5 (in conference play) and if we go .500 in this league, we’ve got a good chance to make the NCAA Tournament, and that is still in front of us,” Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said. “We go 10-8, 11-7, whatever, then it’s a lock. We didn’t have a great weekend in terms of playing our best or getting a win, but our players just need to stay the course, our coaches need to stay the course, stay confident, stay positive — good things happen when you do that."
To win against the Ducks, the Utes knew they had to play some of their best ball of the season, but Utah came out flat.
Utah started the game by going 0 for 7 from the field while Oregon jumped out to a 16-2 lead, and the Utes’ first field goal of the afternoon came on a Megan Huff layup with 4:36 left in the opening period. The Utes played from behind essentially all game, only leading for 18 seconds early in the first quarter.
“We came out about as flat as you can come out, which is embarrassing, and that’s on me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting them ready to play, but that’s unacceptable. You’re playing the seventh-ranked team in the country and you come out flat, I don’t get it, but I’ll take that and do the changes we need to do so that doesn’t happen,” Roberts said.
Oregon’s lead stretched to as much as 19 in the opening quarter, but Utah battled back, making its next six field goals and cutting the Ducks’ lead to eight at the end of the quarter. Tori Williams and Tilar Clark provided a spark off the bench, leading the Utes with eight points each in the half.
“I just think that most of our energy comes from our defense, and that’s usually what gets us going, when we come in and focus on our defense and get stops and steals and it really gets our energy and offense flowing,” Clark said.
“I think we were just playing like Utah basketball, like coach said, we came out really flat defensively and offensively, and we missed a couple of easy shots that we would usually make to start the game, so just finding that gear to turn in the last four minutes and try to get us back in the game,” Tanaeya BoClair said of Utah’s run at the end of the first quarter.
“I’m proud of our bench for coming in, and they did a nice job,” Roberts said.
The Utes cut Oregon’s lead to three about midway in the second quarter, but Utah went cold and was held scoreless for 4:20 while Oregon went on a 10-0 run to build its lead back up to double digits, heading into halftime with a 43-32 advantage.
“That first half, it felt like we were underwater or something, it was bizarre, it was just a weird half. We hung in there, fought to the end, but not our best showing against a really good team,” Roberts said.
Both teams traded runs during the third quarter, and the Utes held the Ducks to zero field goals for over five minutes while making four straight buckets, but Oregon answered by making four of its last five field goals of the quarter to lead by 11 entering the fourth quarter.
Utah had another scoring drought in the fourth quarter, going three minutes without scoring a basket as it was unable to climb back into the game.
“I hate losing, which is frustrating, but I really like this group and I have a feeling that we’re going to be just fine.” Roberts said.