Utah Women’s Basketball Comes Up Short in Season Finale

University+of+Utah+womens+basketball+guard+Maka+Jackson+plays+against+the+USC+Trojans+at+the+Jon.+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+Wednesday%2C+Feb.+9%2C+2021.+%28Photo+by+Xiangyao+Axe+Tang+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29%0D%0A

Xiangyao Tang

University of Utah women’s basketball guard Maka Jackson plays against the USC Trojans at the Jon. M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2021. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer

 

As the calendar prepares to flip to March, the University of Utah women’s basketball team is playing some of their best games of the season.

7-2 in their past nine games, including three road wins in an always difficult Pac-12, the Utes are hoping that momentum will be enough to carry them into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, when they won the Mountain West Conference tournament championship.

With selection Sunday scheduled for March 13, the Utes had two more regular season opportunities to bolster their resume as they welcomed in Oregon State (6-8, 13-11) and Oregon (10-6, 19-10) to the Jon M. Huntsman Center to close out the month of February.

Oregon State Beavers 58 – Utah Utes 70

Playing in gray uniforms as a tribute to the U.S.S. Salt Lake City, all 10 active Utes scored in a wire to wire victory that probably wasn’t as close as the final score would have you believe.

Utah relied on their defense for much of the game, allowing OSU to top 40 percent shooting in one quarter. 

Offensively, a balanced attack saw Jenna Johnson and Brynna Maxwell each score 12 points while Kennady McQueen also scored 10. Gianna Kneepkens was limited to five points but found a way to contribute as she led the team with seven rebounds and finished with four assists.

Head coach Lynne Roberts said of the performance, “I am really proud of our team, and I think we controlled the game. That fourth quarter was a grind, and the second half was not a thing of beauty. It was an 18-point game at one point, which was great, and they just tried to shorten the game and get back into it. I thought defensively we were really good, he’s [Scott Rueck, Oregon State] a phenomenal coach, and they run a lot of really good stuff. Our team was dialed in and communicated well, and did a really good job. Our kids battled like crazy, so I’m proud of our team.”

Oregon Ducks 73 – Utah Utes 65

On senior night, the Utes were unable to send seniors Dru Gylten, Andrea Torres and Maka Jackson out on a high note, falling 73-65 to the No. 25 Oregon Ducks.

Nothing went right early for the Utes.

Oregon opened the game by hitting their first six shots while Utah missed their first 10 three-point shots before Isabel Palmer knocked one down midway through the second quarter.

After trailing by 16 at the half, Johnson caught fire in the third quarter. She ended up scoring 17 points on a perfect 7-7 from the field, bringing Utah within three.

Following a fast-break layup from McQueen that brought the Utes within one, Oregon’s size and depth took control as the Ducks pulled away down the stretch.

Johnson finished with a career-high 27 points.

“This was a great second half for us, after an abysmal start,” Roberts said of the loss “We looked nervous, tight and flatfooted. We were just getting out-toughed in every category. I thought the way we came out of halftime was great. They just played with a lot of fight, and we cut it to one, and then we turned it over in that fourth quarter too many times. I’m proud of our team with our comeback, I’m disappointed with our start, but this is not a bad loss.” 

Back in Action

Utah travels to Las Vegas where the Pac-12 Tournament will be held at the Mandalay Bay. The six-seed Utes will face 11-seed Cal on Wednesday, March 2. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. MST. 

 

[email protected]

@bpreece24