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Steve Griffin, Deseret News
Utah Utes guard Dru Gylten (10) pulls her hair over her face after she fouled out of game late in the fourth quarter during the Utah women's basketball game against USC at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. USC defeated Utah 84-80.

SALT LAKE CITY — Trailing by as much as 14 points, Utah mounted an impressive rally that fell just short of enough to beat USC Friday night.

“We scored 42 points … in the first half; that should be good enough,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts after USC upset No. 17 Utah 84-80 in front of about 3,000 fans at the Huntsman Center. “Our issue wasn’t our offense. It was defensively. … You think if we score 80 points, we should win with how we’ve defended all year. But we gave up 50. We gave up 84 points, at home. Our defense wasn’t that great. We waited … too little, too late to kind of play the way we could play.”

The biggest difference was the offensive boards.

“We got crushed on the O-boards,” Roberts said. “13-4. I don’t know if rebounding is technique. It’s aggressiveness, toughness.”

USC didn’t have much trouble thwarting Utah’s defensive efforts in the first half. Led by sisters Minyon and Mariya Moore, USC outscored Utah 13-5 in the last four minutes of the first quarter. The Trojans stretched that lead throughout the second quarter, taking a 50-42 lead into halftime.

“I felt like we didn’t start the game as we usually do,” said guard Dru Gylten, who finished with a team-high 24 points. “At halftime, we needed to do it or we wearn’t going to have a chance. I felt like everyone was on the same page after halftime.”

" We gave up 84 points, at home. Our defense wasn’t that great. We waited … too little, too late to kind of play the way we could play. "
Utah coach Lynne Roberts

The mediocre defensive effort made the offensive load heavier.

“We couldn’t get stops,” Roberts said. “That puts pressure on the offense. You feel like you’ve got to score, so any empty possession, it feels like you haven’t scored in forever.”

Utah made defensive adjustments in the second half that slowed the Trojans’ offense.

“We couldn’t keep them in front of us in the first half and at the start of the third,” Roberts said. “So we went to that zone, and it worked. It gave them pause. We caught up, but we couldn’t capitalize.”

Utah’s fourth-quarter comeback was led by senior point guard Erika Bean, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds. She had some jaw-dropping passes, and she earned the steal that gave Utah a chance to win with 13.8 seconds left in the game as they trailed by two points (82-80).

Not only did Bean manage to steal USC’s inbounds pass, she managed to call a time out almost immediately.

Roberts said the last play was designed for senior forward Megan Huff.

“It was for Huffy to get the ball where she caught it and try to get contact,” Roberts said.

Steve Griffin
Utah Utes forward Megan Huff (5) knocks the ball away from USC Trojans forward Kayla Overbeck (1) during the Utah versus USC women's basketball game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.

Instead, Huff kicked the ball back out to freshman Niyah Becker, who’d hit a 3-point shot on the previous possession, and her shot was blocked. Becker was then called for a foul struggling to regain possession, and Trojan forward Ja’Tavia Tapley hit both free throws to give USC a four-point lead with 1.6 seconds left in the game.

“I thought momentum was on our side, everything was working our way, but we missed a lot of shots when we had every opportunity to take the lead, to take control of the game,” Roberts said. “I felt like that’s where the game could have, should have gone our way. … We needed to take control of the game at that point (late in the third quarter, early in the fourth quarter) to win it, and we didn’t.”

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Huff finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, while Dre’Una Edwards added 10 points and seven rebounds. Kiana Moore added 11, while freshman Andrea Torres finished with 10 points. For USC, Mariya Moore led the team with 23 points, while Aliyah Mazyck added 17 points, and Asiah Jones and Minyon Moore each added 12 points in the win.

Utah doesn’t have a lot of time to wrestle with what went wrong as they host UCLA on Sunday at noon.

“I think we just learn from it,” Roberts said. “We can’t do anything about the past now. … It sucks losing. We all hate it. We can’t do anything about it now. … We have to move on. But we need to learn we can’t start games like that. We play in the Pac-12. Everyone is good. We can’t start like that.”