The University of Utah women’s basketball team has gone through some ups and downs this season, and that has culminated in a 16-13 overall record and a 5-13 conference mark. The Utes finished the season in a four-way tie at the bottom of the conference with Colorado, Arizona and USC. Due to a stroke of bad luck, the Utes drew the short end of the stick, and they lost every tiebreaker with those three teams to end up as the bottom seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
“I think it was just kind of dumb luck that we lost every tiebreaker,” said head coach Lynne Roberts at her most recent press conference. “It just speaks to the strength of the conference and how good everybody is. It is a gauntlet. Whoever wins between us and ASU gets to face UCLA. The winner of that game gets to go on and face Oregon State and whoever they play. That tournament is going to be the best basketball in the country.”
Utah plays Arizona State in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament Thursday at 3 p.m. The last time these two teams played Arizona State blew out the Utes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The Sun Devils held the Utes to just 31 percent shooting from the field, and Utah was just 1-of-9 downtown. Arizona State posted three players in double figures, and it shot 40 percent from the field. ASU also connected on 44 percent of its long balls.
“[Arizona State] is tough in every sense of the word. They are physically and mentally tough,” Roberts said. “They try to frustrate you and get under your skin. It feels like a season ago that we played them. We played them back in January, and we are a different team and they probably are too. I don’t know how much we can look at that film.”
The Sun Devils come into the tournament as the No. 5 seed after going 18-11. Arizona State has been ranked multiple times this season, and it was ranked as high as No.16. Given that the Utes lost to the Sun Devils in their last matchup and ASU’s track record of good play, Roberts isn’t too concerned. For her and her team, it is just business as usual in the Pac-12.
“Two weeks ago, I would have said no,” Roberts said when asked is she thought the team was playing their best basketball. “I do now. The process to get us to where we are playing our best basketball wasn’t scripted the way I thought it would be. Adversity teaches you what you’re made of.”
The winner of Thursday’s game will go on to face No. 4 UCLA on Friday at 2 pm.