The University of Utah women’s basketball team set a record under Lynne Roberts with 29 turnovers in a 66-54 loss to the tenth-ranked Arizona Wildcats.
“Arizona is so aggressive and physical. Their defense is very tough and that many turnovers is going to be tough to win with on the road. The second quarter we struggled to score and it put us in a hole. We did a better job in the second half of attacking the pressure, but we only shot three free throws to their 23 and it is hard to defend that. I thought our defense was pretty dang good, too. For the most part, our kids stuck to the defensive game plan and did a nice job,” head coach Lynne Roberts said.
The loss also came with one of the most promising offensive stretches Utah has had in months. A fourth-quarter stretch that at one point cut a 15-plus point lead down to just four late in the fourth quarter.
Utah had a shot to win this game, despite the 29 turnovers they had on the night, largely thanks to stellar field goal shooting in which the Utes hit 42% of their shots and knocked down eight three-point attempts along the way.
Coach Roberts remarked on her team’s ability to hang tough down the stretch.
“I am proud of the fight. We never quit and never quit believing. This was our third game in a row against a top-10 team. It has been a challenging stretch as sometimes you don’t get rewarded with a win, but we’re getting better, and tougher,” Roberts said.
Brynna Maxwell, despite an unfortunate eight turnovers, found her shot again in the fourth quarter and found openings on the floor to drain easy threes. Though Maxwell finished with just six points on the night, her fourth-quarter performance was extremely promising offensively.
Unfortunately, that performance came with two ugly turnovers in the fourth that ultimately sealed the game for the Utes.
Niyah Becker put up one of her most impressive performances of the year recording 10 points, three rebounds, and two assists.
Arizona was lead by Aari McDonald (20 points) and Bendu Yeaney (14). Arizona finished the night with an impressive 21 points off turnovers.
First-quarter: A defensive quarter ends 11-10 in favor of the Utes. Shots were at a minimum for Utah in the quarter but when they did get opportunities up they capitalized, shooting 4-10 from the field in the first quarter.
Arizona on the other hand fired up 18 shots, in a large part due to their impressive rebounding numbers, out boarding the Utes 13-7. That said, Arizona shot an abysmal 26 percent from the field in the first quarter and that ultimately kept the game close early.
Kemery Martín was impressive in the first quarter putting up five points on a layup and a catch and shoot three off a feed from teammate Dru Gylten who had two assists in the quarter.
As a result of poor early rebounding, Niyah Becker saw a lot of time for the Utes in the first quarter. Becker finished with five points and two rebounds in the quarter.
Second-quarter: The Utes trail at half 30-20. The Wildcats’ second-quarter run was fueled by Utes turnovers, yet again an issue for the team with 11 turnovers in the first half and 6 points for Arizona off of those turnovers.
Brynna Maxwell had one shot attempt at the break, one. For any team that just won’t cut it when your star player is not getting shots up. Credit Arizona’s defense for that, smothering Maxwell throughout the half with double teams.
The Utes scoring was spread across the box score. Becker and Martín had 5 points each. The trends of the year up to this point have shown Utah fights back, always after going down, the question at half seemed to be: how quickly could Utah stop the bleeding?
Third-quarter: The Utes recovered early in the third, stopping Arizona’s run and cutting the lead to 9.
The Utes defense continued to play incredibly well. Consistency on offense began to form as well as the Utes scored on three straight offensive possessions, putting up a 7-2 run. However, turnovers continued to be an issue as the Utes turned over the ball 3 times in the first five minutes of the third quarter.
An Arizona run ended the quarter at 46-33. Utah turned the ball over a total of seven times in the third. Simply put, that is far too many to have consistent success and continues to be a major problem for this basketball team.
The Utes offense put up one of their best quarters of the past two months, putting up 42 percent from the field. Three-point shots, however, continue to not fall. Utah shot 1-6 from beyond the arc in the third.
Fourth-quarter: Moments of progress in shooting were destroyed by turnovers. At one point in the fourth, there were seven turnovers in a four-minute spell.
The offense worked. That’s the takeaway, they shot extremely well in the fourth quarter. It felt for the first time in nearly a month and a half Utah’s offense felt like they were in a rhythm.
Pace, pace, pace. The Utes pace sped up in the fourth and the offense got better. Brynna Maxwell found a rhythm in the catch and shoot game. Kennady McQueen played well, Kemery Martín got to the bucket. The Utes offense looked fantastic, the best it has looked since the Oregon State game.
The issue of course is that this pace and urgency came only after the game was out of reach, with a 12-2 run starting at around the four-minute remaining mark. At one point the lead was down to 60-54.
Stat of the Game
The Utes turned the ball over, 29 times, according to the ESPN 700 broadcast, the most ever in Lynne Roberts’ tenure at the U. This ultimately was the Utes’ downfall in a game they had a chance to win.
Brynna Maxwell had eight turnovers. Kemery Martín had five turnovers and Andrea Torres had four.
What is Next?
Utah takes on Arizona State at 2 p.m. MST on Sunday in Tempe. You can listen to that game on ESPN 700 and watch it on the Arizona State athletics website.