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Utah women lose season home finale but show confidence, grit in effort to write a ‘good ending’

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SALT LAKE CITY — The scoreboard labeled it a loss — just like Friday’s loss to Oregon.

And while hardliners may argue there are no moral victories in losses, the Utah women’s basketball team is certainly taking a lot of positives from its 63-49 loss to No. 11 Oregon State.

“I’m really proud of our team for how hard they played,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “I thought we did what we needed to do to beat Oregon State in terms of our effort in rebounding. I mean, they had one offensive rebound in the second half. That’s pretty incredible. We forced 18 turnovers.”

The Utes trailed at the end of the first quarter, but they outscored Oregon State in the second quarter and trailed just 30-26 heading into halftime. The third quarter, Utah’s press caused the Beavers all kinds of trouble, and Utah capitalized, taking its first lead of the game at 5:19.

But the Beavers switched their defense up and continued to shoot well from the 3-point line, and the Utes' offense couldn’t keep pace.

“I mean, I thought we just played extremely hard,” Roberts said. “We just didn’t make enough baskets, as silly as that sounds.” Junior center Emily Potter led the Utes with 17 points, while Paige Crozon added 13 points. Tanaeya Boclair and Potter led the team in rebounds with six each.

For Oregon State, Sydney Wiese and Gabriella Hanson each scored 14 points, with Wiese leading the effort on the boards with seven.

Utah was outrebounding the Beavers until the fourth quarter, and Oregon State ended up edging Utah in that statistical category 34-32.

The biggest difference statistically was Oregon State’s shooting percentage from beyond the 3-point line. The Beavers shot 47 percent from long range, including 66.7 percent in the fourth quarter.

Utah, on the other hand, shot just 25 percent from 3-point range, including going 1-for-5 in the fourth quarter.

OSU led most of the game, with Utah’s third-quarter performance giving it the first of its two leads — both times by one point.

Crozon said the team talked Saturday about just finishing the season or making a statement of sorts.

“Our team did a great job of responding from the Oregon game,” she said. “We really bought into the game plan.”

Added Potter, “There is no time to feel sorry for ourselves if we’re losing. We’re in a really tough conference and we have to come to play, and play the way we know we can.”

Still, Utah coaches and players said the game — regardless of the final score — gives them confidence heading into their final two games and the Pac-12 Tournament.

“I’m playing for my coaches and my teammates, like playing for each other, like you saw, the energy out there,” Potter said. “That’s when it’s fun, when everyone is doing great, everyone is contributing, everyone can come in and celebrate and get excited.”

Roberts was thrilled to see the Utes playing with intensity and abandon that served them well until OSU’s zone defense change caused their offense to sputter.

“I think everybody had that message, like let’s not be tentative in any way,” Roberts said. “It’s one of those things I wish we’d been playing this hard all season. I think our record will be a lot different in conference play. But it is what it is, and that’s part of life, you’ve got to learn.” So how can the Utes hold onto the energy and confidence they displayed Sunday? “I think it’s going to be good to go back and watch the film on this game and just give ourselves some confidence that we’re in this league for a reason. We are Utah, and that’s how we want to play. … Anything is possible when we play that way.”

Added Crozon, who as the team’s lone senior was honored before the team’s final home contest, “It’s a lot more fun to play this way too.”