Utah Shooting Disappears as the Utes Drop Second Straight to Arizona State


University of Utah women’s basketball players huddle during the final seconds of their win against Montana State University on Dec. 11, 2020 in the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Eric Jensen, Sports Writer


Basketball is a game of runs. The University of Utah women’s basketball team has not been particularly good at having runs since their upset win over Oregon State nearly a week ago, and that trend continued Friday night as they lost to Arizona State 52-44.

On a night in which the Utes posted one of the worst shooting nights of the season, at one point being 1-20 in the second half in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Utes finished the night shooting 30% from the field. Their worst performance of the year compared to their shooting against Oregon when they averaged just 28% from the field.

“I think we are missing shots that we normally make and it affects everything. That puts so much pressure on the defense and then everyone feels the pressure of ‘oh I got to make this’. We went 1-19 from three and we have some kids that can absolutely shoot the ball,” head coach Lynne Roberts said.

Roberts also talked about the physicality the Sun Devils used and how it affectively slowed down Brynna Maxwell.

“They were incredibly physical; it’s hard to make layups and shots when it’s that physical,” Roberts said.

Roberts said that the team had to be tougher and that Colorado did the same thing to them in Boulder earlier this week.

On if Brynna Maxwell was affected by physicality: “Yeah but that’s what happened in Colorado too. So it’s something she needs to learn from because it is going to continue to happen, she’s got to muscle up and buckle up. She got some pressure today and she just didn’t make shots that she normally does,” Roberts said.

Maxwell went 1-8 from the field scoring only six points. The Utes went 1-19 from three as Roberts mentioned.  There worst three-point shooting performance of the year.

Dru Gylten scored a team-high of 13 points while posting three assists and two rebounds as well. She spoke on the teams shooting night.

“I think it’s just kind of a block right now. I think we proved we could all shoot in the Oregon State game. I also think we need to account for the fact this is our fifth game even though it feels like the end of the year with the way things have been set up,” Gylten said.

The Utes have been through a roller coaster of a month, starting with COVID cancellations, followed by a blowout loss to Oregon and a rebound win over the 15th ranked team in the country in their own building. This is where runs come back into focus. The Utes are on a bad run right now, one caused by an offensive slow down and turnovers (18 Friday night).

The team is young though. Roberts pointed that out during her presser, not as an excuse but more as a point of caution. There were always going to be growing pains for this team. They just happen to be hitting them now as they open a stretch of Pac-12 play that sees them play the sixth-ranked team in the country in Arizona Sunday. Here is how the rest of the game broke down.

10 minute report

First-quarter: The Utes began the game dominating in the paint. After two games of struggling with the three the strategy was clear, get to the basket. The Utes scored 12 of their 17 points in the paint. The Utes also posted three steals within the quarter, scoring four points off turnovers.

Zuzanna Puc led the team in scoring with five points. A note on Peyton McFarland: The freshman started for Utah, played six minutes in the first and was a total mismatch in the paint. Frankly, Arizona State just did not have the size to keep up with the 6-foot-4 freshman, who finished the quarter with three rebounds.

Second-quarter: The Utes finished the half up 25-18 against Arizona State. Utah’s leading scorers were Dru Gylten and Niyah Becker who both posted six points in the first half. None of those points came from the three-point line though.

Shots just were not falling at the Huntsman Center early. Both teams combined to go 2-17 from three-point land.

The Utes moved inside to score points dropping 20 paint points in the first half. The Utes inside defense excelled, only allowing Arizona State to post six points within the paint in the first half.

The Utes had struggled with turnover in the past two games; Friday’s first half saw an end to that. The Utes only had the ball stolen three times and avoided bad mistakes. They limited turnovers to only nine in the half, an improvement.

Lola Pendande was a problem on the boards in the second frame collecting five rebounds. Despite what felt like Utah dominance on the boards in the first half, they were actually outrebounded by the Sun Devils by one: 20-19.

Kemery Martín is a gunslinger. The sophomore made several jaw-dropping passes in the first half including a cross courter from beyond half court to Kennady McQueen in the corner. Martin has proven to be one of the Utes most valuable players early, especially on nights like Friday in a game where Brynna Maxwell was held to one shot in the first half.

Third-quarter: The Utes finished the quarter down 37-32. During this quarter, the Utes were outscored 19-7. The Utes were also outrebounded 14-13. The issue for the Utes was that they just were not able to score within the frame.

Shooting a shocking 1-15 from the field, baskets simply were not falling for the Utes. They headed into the fourth quarter down for the first time in the game since minutes into the game.

Turnovers became an issue in the third again, the Utes having the ball taken away from them four times.

Fourth-quarter: With 1:47 left in the game, the story of the Utes night had been a brutal shooting night. The Utes had shot 2-10 in the quarter up to that point but because of solid defense and decent rebounding found themselves in a four-point game 46-42.

After a turnover off the inbounds and a defensive stop, Maxwell’s three rattled out of the basket. The Sun Devils Jaddan Simmons then drove to the basket drew a fouled and nailed both of her free throws to make it 48-42.

The Utes responded though as Kennady McQueen drove to the bucket on the baseline and hit a nice reverse layup to make the score 48-44 Sun Devils with 42 seconds left to play.

Simmons returned to the line for Arizona State scoring both of her free throws to make it 50-44. That closed out the game as the Utes lost by a final score of 52-44.

Stat of the Game

Peyton McFarland had six blocks for the Utes and was a monster on the boards. Her size and skill make her a very tough matchup for any team.

“I was really proud of our defense. We competed today, and Peyton is a force; she does a nice job of not fouling. I don’t know the last time a player had six blocks maybe Emily Potter it is nice to have that force she is athletic and mobile and she handles ball screens well, just a freshman, just a puppy but she is going to be a hell of a player for us.” Roberts said.

What is Next?

The Utes play the Arizona Wildcats on Sunday at noon. You can watch the game on Pac-12 networks and listen to the game on ESPN 700. This will be the last week before the Utes hit a week-long Christmas break before returning to play new years day against Washington State at home.


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