Sun Devils’ defense overpowers Utes

Freshman Malia Nawahine shoots a three-pointer at last week’s game against the Washington State Cougars at the Huntsman Center.
Freshman Malia Nawahine shoots a three-pointer at last week’s game against the Washington State Cougars at the Huntsman Center.
The second half has been a season-long struggle for Utah. That certainly was the case when the Utes traveled to Tempe on Sunday afternoon.
Utah (11-16, 4-12) was worn down by Arizona State’s (22-6, 11-5) upbeat play in a decisive 60-40 loss. Coming into the second half with just a three-point deficit, the Sun Devils went on 16-5 run that gave them a comfortable lead on their Senior Night.
“Things just went bad when we started the second half,” Levrets said. “We played really well in that first half, but just ran out of gas and missed a bunch of easy shots at the start.”
Arizona State had a hot start at the beginning of the game with a 10-2 start, but it wasn’t long before the Utes began to make some shots of their own. Triggered by a jumper from freshman Emily Potter, Utah shot for 41 percent from the field in the first half to draw closer to breaking Arizona State’s hold on the lead.
Forward Malia Nawahine led the Utes in scoring with 12 points, 10 of those coming in the first half. She tied things up at 21 apiece when she converted the three-point play after being fouled on a made layup. Despite her personal contributions, Nawahine credits her teammates for feeding her the ball when the opportunity arose.
“My teammates found me well on the court,” Nawahine said. “With running in transitions, it helps a lot. Shots were just falling for me and we were getting some good looks and that was the biggest part and finding me out there on the court.”
Despite a close contested first half, the Utes looked worn out in the second half as their shooting plummeted to 18 percent from the field. Utah tried to attack the paint more, but couldn’t rebound the basketball as the Sun Devils finished with nearly double the amount of rebounds the Utes gathered.
In addition to the loss on the boards, Utah could not hold on to the ball thanks to Arizona State’s full-court pressure, turning the ball over 18 times. The Sun Devils capitalized on those turnovers by scoring 15 points off takeaways, most coming in the second half. Arizona State’s two leading scorers of the game, Joy Burke and Deja Mann, scored 17 of their combined 21 points for the game in the second half.
“Arizona State is really good defensively,” Levrets said. “They pressure like crazy. We missed some easy stuff that we did not execute very well as well as missing some baskets. That is when they take it away and the game when you are playing under pressure wears you away.”
As the regular season nears the end, the Utes are looking to finish the season strong and to send out their seniors in winning fashion when it hosts USC in the Huntsman Center this Thursday. The game is expected to tip off at 7 p.m.
“The most important thing is that we come out and compete,” Levrets said. “Especially for the special group of kids that we are going to be losing.”
[email protected]