It was a tough match-up for No. 22 Arizona State (13-6, 4-3 Pac-12) as it was handed its third-straight loss against the Utah Utes (13-5, 4-3 Pac-12) on Friday afternoon.
The Sun Devils started off slow but picked up the pace for the second and third quarters of the game. However, when it came down to the wire, Utah grinded, leaving the Sun Devils in a rough position to come back.
“We were trading baskets,” ASU junior forward Courtney Ekmark said in a 58-56 Sun Devil loss. “We started slow and then we kind of clawed back and we thought we had them.”
The Sun Devils shot a dreadful 8 percent (1 of 13) from the field for the first 7:23 of the game. The Utes were putting on a display of compelling offense and defense for Arizona State in the first quarter. Utah’s size outweighed the Sun Devils immensely, which meant ASU was going to have to push the ball a little more than usual.
“No matter what, we just gotta keep playing,” ASU sophomore guard Robbi Ryan said referring to the physicality that was shown in their match up against Utah. “If they punch us, we gotta punch back.
Utah kept their lead for most of the first quarter by rebounding the ball early and scoring in the paint. The Utes lead 15 – 8 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was much more fortunate for ASU as the Sun Devils found ways of cutting down the lead. Reili Richardson hit a floater with 6:32 in the second quarter to tie the game 17. Still at that point, Arizona State was shooting a below average 27 percent from the floor, but they were keeping pace.
From shooting 45 percent to outscoring ASU in the paint in the first quarter, the Utes then went on to shoot a mere 37 percent and commit eight turnovers. ASU was locking down on the defensive end and also scored 13 points off of Utah’s 11 total turnovers.
The Sun Devils were heating up.
Arizona State then went on a 17-3 run for seven-and-a-half minutes in the second quarter. To finish the first half, Robbi Ryan hit a three on the run to beat the buzzer as the Devils rode a 29-25 lead into the locker room.
With 7:27 in the third, both the Utes and the Sun Devils were shooting 37 percent from the field. However, the Sun Devils were up 33-25, outrebounding and outscoring Utah in the paint with 18 points. ASU had a total of 27 rebounds with six minutes left in the third quarter, which lead to their success to get the upper hand on Utah.
However, everything changed in the fourth. Utah regained the lead (52-51) with 58 seconds left in the fourth. From being down 13 points, the Utes came back to put the game away.
The Utes bumped up their stats, rebounding a total of 44 boards, scoring 34 points in the paint and getting some contributions from their second unit (20 points scored by their bench).
“We’ve just been having stuff going on,” ASU head coach Carli Turner Thorne said. “She said there’s been little injuries here and there with players like Jamie Ruden and Richardson. If you guys want to be a great team, then you gotta be efficient with your possessions.
“We’re not healthy. We’re just flat out not healthy,” as she stated the condition of the team as of now.”
Turner Thorne said that the biggest aspects to watch out for their next game is getting better rebounding numbers and finding that extra opportunity when passing the ball. Thorne also added that their defensive efforts have to be much better against their next match up on Sunday against the Colorado Buffs.
Arizona State will have another match up, and an opportunity to pick up the slack as they’ll play Colorado on Sunday @ 2:00 p.m. MST.