Utah Women’s Basketball Season Ends at Hands of Washington State

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University of Utah women’s basketball player, Brynna Maxwell (#11), holds the ball on offense in the game against Arizona State University in the Jon M. Huntsman center in Salt Lake City on Dec. 18, 2020. (Photo by Jack Gambassi | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Eric Jensen, Sports Writer

 

The University of Utah Women’s basketball season comes to a close with a 57-48 loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament Wednesday night.

In a year of constant turmoil for nearly everyone involved in the program, it comes with sadness that the season is over but also relief.

“There is so much to college athletics that’s just routine, you step up to the free throw line and you go through your routine and it gives you confidence,” head coach Lynne Roberts said.

That routine was shattered this year according to Roberts. The team was yanked from the floor two hours ahead of game time on Sunday and that threw everything off.

“The things we can count on, have not been there this year,” Roberts said.

“Last weekend was just another drop in the bucket of all the things that have been disruptive, we are not unique, everyone’s gone through it but it’s challenging, and we have a young team and the hardest thing has been getting momentum,” Roberts said. “Like we were playing really well in that shoot around before [the] Oregon [game] gets canceled, then we are on the floor at 10 a.m. Sunday and that game gets canceled, there isn’t a handbook as a coach on how to deal with that.”

Roberts sounded frustrated in her presser, and even questioned whether playing this season was a good idea, saying that it forced college kids to not be normal. Really is any of this a good idea? Was it really worth playing college sports in the middle of a global pandemic?

“What we asked these kids to do [in college sports] is kind of nuts,” Roberts said.

Brynna Maxwell echoed her coaches feelings on the circumstances surrounding this season as well post game.

“When you hear about student athletes having to deal with this stuff, it’s not dramatizing it, it’s for real. I don’t know one player, or person, or team that wasn’t affected by this pandemic,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell went on to say there were days that the team didn’t even know if they could practice or not. The team was basically on lockdown for the better part of six months, only going between housing and the gym on top of classwork.

“I think everyone just marches on emotionally and mentally drained,” Maxwell said.

But it’s ones responsibility in sports and Roberts knows that.

“I’m very proud of our players, I am not proud of what are record is and I just told them, we will get better,” Roberts said.

The Utes need to get better especially shooting the ball. The team shot an abysmal 23% from the floor and shot even worse within the paint.

Those are issues for another day though. The Utes now aim to take some time off, recoup, relax and in time look forward to 2021.

But for now though, the hardest year on record is over.

10 Minute Report: What Happened on the Court

First-quarter

The Utes end the first quarter up 17-16. It was a gritty defensive battle that developed early in Las Vegas. The Utes were able to play one of their best quarters in recent history, due to the fact they limited turnovers, just four in the first frame.

The team shot 50% from three in the first quarter.

Kemery Marin lead the Utes in scoring with eight points in the first. Brynna Maxwell put up five points for the Utes.

The lead could have been bigger, Washington State missed a lot of shots in the first frame. The Cougars only shot 35% from the field in the first but Utah couldn’t respond.

Utah posted 11 rebounds in the first frame, Peyton McFarland, Martin, Zuzanna Puc, and Maxwell lead the team in rebounding with two rebounds apiece.

Second-quarter

WSU missed five shots to start the second quarter but the Utes couldn’t capitalize on any of those stops.

Shots then started to fall in the fifth minute as Washington State pushed for a 22-17 lead. The Utes finish the half down 27-23.

Washington State got hot in the latter stages of the second quarter draining three 3-point attempts within the span of two minutes. The Cougars ability to put the ball in the basket in crunch time is a credit to the way they have played this year.

The Utes limited turnovers but went cold from the floor, hitting only 2-17 shots. Shooting struggles have been an issue for the Utes all year and this games first half was no different.

The Utes shot 25% from the field in the first half. The team just could not score the ball when given opportunities by the Cougars.

Third-quarter

The Utes only had eight turnovers through three quarters and the game was within reach 39-31 going into the fourth.

The future of the Utes program depends on that remaining the same. If the Utes can return this team next year and limit turnovers the sky is the limit for the program. They could have a top-half Pac-12 record and also have a chance at being an NCAA tournament team.

Turnovers have been the issues for the team all year but in this the biggest moment of the season for the Utes, they appeared to have entirely fixed the problem. If this team can grow off of this performance the future at Utah looks brighter than what this year of 2020 was for the team.

Fourth-quarter

Kennady McQueen started with a step-back dagger that put the Utes within six. McQueen had the ball in her hands for a majority of the game on Wednesday, the freshman is an incredible talent who with an off-season can improve to be a Martin/Maxwell level player.

Maxwell nailed a three-point shot around the five-minute mark that brought the Utes to within three points of Wazzu. Maxwell’s 13th point of the night gave the Utes life down the stretch.

The Cougars started to pull away late though, the Leger-Walker duo led the way and scoring 27 points between the pair. Bella Murekatete scored 13 additional points and the Utes fell to the Cougars 57-48 in the final game of the 2020-2021 season.

It was a season that never felt like it got off the ground, but with many of the starters returning next year things look bright for a Utah team that seemed to fix the number one thing that hurt them all year, turnovers.

Though shooting was an issue this year Maxwell sees that as a problem of the past.

“This is the best shooting team I have ever been around. We will take this as motivation and get better I never want to feel this way again,” Maxwell said.

With turnovers fixed and improved shooting, the sky is the limit for the Utes headed into next year.

 

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@EricJensenSport