Utah remains hopeful despite 58-45 loss to UCLA

Turnovers, missed layups and air balls. The Utah women’s basketball team had problem after problem as it lost 58-45 to UCLA at the Nell & John Wooden Court on Sunday afternoon.

Utah (7-16, 1-11 Pac-12) shot 24.7 percent from the floor tonight, and at one point was 3-of-22. Even with all the struggles, head coach Anthony Levrets said he was happy with his team’s effort.

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“I was really proud of how we competed today,” Levrets said. “We shot the ball as poorly as you can shoot the basketball. We managed to hang in there and compete and fight. Obviously it’s very disappointing any time you lose, it’s piling up on us here. But our kids are fighting and hanging in there.”

It wasn’t just shooting the Utes struggled with.

The team turned the ball over a total of 16 times and allowed UCLA to have multiple second-chance points, including when the Bruins’ Kari Korver rebounded her own missed free throw attempt and returned to the line seconds later after being fouled again on a reverse layup.

Things started off well for the Utes, as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but then it was all UCLA.

Utah was held scoreless for the last three minutes of the first half and struggled to keep pace with the Bruins, going into halftime down 30-19 after shooting 18.2 percent.

Levrets said the team ran out of steam towards the end of both halves.

“We wore down a little bit, we just got tired and we missed two or three shots in transition,” Levrets said. “That led to a couple of easy baskets for them, and we can’t have those kinds of breakdowns. But it’s hard to ask our kids to compete any harder than what we’re competing right now. ”

The Utes missed several putbacks and shot several air balls as the team struggled to put points on the board.

Dani Rodriguez led all Utah scorers with 11 points, with eight of those coming in the first half. Tanaeya Boclair had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds but also had seven turnovers. Taryn Wicijowski registered 10 points after being held scoreless in the first half.

Levrets said the team is putting a lot on Rodriguez’s plate late in the season, and it makes her job more difficult because she doesn’t really have a backup. Levrets also said the team may just need to let her catch her breath more often, but when she’s off the court, the whole team struggles.

“She’s playing a lot of minutes, getting pressured night in and night out, and it’s a tough job that we’re asking her to do,” Levrets said. “We have such a difficult time when she’s not in the game.”

Nirra Fields and Jordin Canada led the Bruins in scoring, each with 16 points.

Utah will return home Friday night for a game against Washington, and Levrets is hopeful for that contest.

“[We’ll] see if we can get a little bit better between now and Friday night and give Washington another good effort,” he said.

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@kbrenneisen