SALT LAKE CITY — For about 39 minutes, Utah held Arizona State’s leading scorer to just five points.
Unfortunately, it was that last minute that cost them a victory that seemed firmly in their grasp until the game’s final moments.
“Disappointing,” Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said after Utah lost to No. 22 ASU on a buzzer-beater 65-63. “It’s a heartbreaker. It’s one game, and it sucks, and it’s our first loss so you think, ‘Oh, this is what it’s like to lose.’ To lose in that way, where we had it, and they made plays, it shows we’re right there. We’re as tough as anybody. We can compete in this league with anybody.”
The most frustrating aspect of the loss was that Utah owned a six-point lead with 1:20 to play. That’s when Ibis hit the first of her back-to-back 3-point shots.
“That’s what good players do,” Roberts said. “They make shots down the stretch like that.”
Utah might have been able to withstand even Ibis’ heroics if their own offense had scored just once in that final minute.
In the same stretch that Ibis hit her back-to-back 3-point shots – one of those deep with two defenders on her —Utah missed a layup and a jump shot.
“We’ve got to learn to finish games,” Roberts said. “That’s the downside of not having played in a close game.”
Utah was led by Megan Huff, who earned another double-double – 17 points and 10 rebounds - in playing nearly the entire game (37:18). Dre’Una Edwards added 10 points, while Dru Gylten scored seven points.
The Utes lost more than a close game when senior wing Daneesha Provo, who scored 13 points, injured her knee with 1:56 to play in the third quarter.
“It hurt losing Daneesha too,” Roberts said. “That’s just another scorer. There’s a lot of stuff we have in our playbook that runs through her.”
Provo will undergo an MRI Saturday, and that leaves the Utes with just eight healthy players as they prepare to take on Arizona Sunday at noon.
“I’m not worried about it,” Roberts said. “My third year at Chico State, we had eight players and we won 27 games.”
ASU was led by Courtney Elmark, who scored 15 points, and Charnea Johnson-Chapman, who added 12 points. Elmark also had four steals.
And if there was a statistic that told the story of the game for Roberts, it was the offensive rebounds. While Utah had two offensive boards, ASU had 11. The Sun Devils out-rebounded the Utes 36-29.
“We had two,” Roberts said of her team’s offensive rebounds. “I think that is a career low for me. Arizona State is really tough. They blocked us out, but we weren’t crashing like we normally do. …On the other side, they had 10 more shot attempts than we did. That’s all second-chance opportunities. I had a feeling it would come down to that statistic.”
Huff said the Sun Devils “out-toughed us” on the boards.
“Statistically, it just shows we weren’t doing what we should have been doing with offensive rebounding,” Huff said, adding she felt good about her team’s effort and performance throughout most of the game. “I think rebounding is something we kind of hang our hat on.”
She said the fact that Ibis got basically the same shot against Utah in those final seconds indicated issues defensively. “I think we were confident the whole game, it just came down to those …three shots,” she said. “It was a miscommunication or lack of focus because they ran the same play twice, and she got the same (shot) – twice.”3 comments on this story
The players expressed gratitude for the 3,310 fans who made the atmosphere of their first home conference game something special. Freshman Dru Gylten said Friday night's atmosphere was the kind of environment players dream of when they envision their collegiate careers.
Both players and coach said they’ll take the positives from Friday’s game and learn from the mistakes. Roberts repeated what she's said often about the Pac-12 play's brutal realities. Now her youngest players understand that concept in a very real way.
“I am proud of our effort, our fight,” Roberts said. “I think we did what we needed to do to win, they just made that last play. So you have to tip your hat to them.”