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Utah women’s basketball: Utes can’t get into offensive rhythm, lose 84-81 to South Dakota in overtime

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South Dakota Coyotes guard Ciara Duffy (24) knocks the ball out of the hands of Utah Utes guard Niyah Becker (14) as she shoots during the first half of an NCAA women’s basketball game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019.

Colter Peterson, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women’s basketball team went on a 10-0 run in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter to force overtime but fell short in the extra period, losing its home opener to South Dakota 84-81 and falling to 0-3 on the year.

Down by eight points with just under four minutes remaining in regulation, the Utes went on a 10-point run, capped by an Ola Makurat 3-pointer that put Utah up two points with nine seconds to play. On the ensuing South Dakota possession, Monica Arens drew a foul and sank her two free throws. Makurat’s last-second 3-pointer was blocked to prolong the game.

In overtime, South Dakota made more plays than Utah did. The Utes took their only lead of the extra period when Dru Gylten made a layup with two minutes left. That would be the last time the Utes would score, as Utah went scoreless through the rest of the game. Brynna Maxwell missed a 3-pointer, Gylten turned the ball over and Kiana Moore missed a layup. 

“In the last minute, we just didn’t make the plays that they did. We missed a layup; we missed a three,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts.

South Dakota was able to make the necessary plays to close the game out. Ciara Duffy made a free throw to tie the game, and then Madison McKeever hit both free throws with 30 seconds left. Taylor Frederick extended the lead to three on a free throw with 10 seconds left, and Utah’s attempt to tie the game on a Kemery Martin shot missed and was inside the 3-point line.            

“You could see it down the stretch, they just had a bit more poise.” — Utah coach Lynne Roberts

Arens led the Coyotes with 17 points, while Duffy chipped in 16 points and Hannah Sjerven added 13 points. 

“We showed our inexperience versus a really experienced team. South Dakota is very, very good. They returned 10 people from last year that made the NCAA tournament. You could see it down the stretch, they just had a bit more poise,” Roberts said.

Lola Pendande was great for the Utes, scoring 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and grabbing nine rebounds. 

“Lola had a good game. They were having a hard time defending her. I was trying to get her the ball as much as we could,” Roberts said.

Makurat added 14 points and Moore had 12 points for the Utes. 

South Dakota, which appeared in the 2019 NCAA tournament, made its presence felt immediately, jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. 

“They’re good and they came out ready to play and they executed their stuff. They didn’t miss a shot; they hit their first four shots,” Roberts said. 

Utah responded with a 9-0 run, and the game was back and forth from that point on, with neither team able to pull away from the other. 

One interesting wrinkle from Roberts throughout the game was the implementation of “line changes.” Roberts subbed five players on and off the floor at the same time, playing a 10-person rotation. 

Aside from a few key runs, the Utes had trouble getting into an offensive rhythm, which Roberts partly attributed to the young team still getting accustomed to each other. 

“Offensively, we’re still a work in progress, but we scored 81 points. We hit 10 threes. The rhythm, we’ll get there. There’s a lot of new people playing together — nine players that have never played together. It’s going to take some time,” Roberts said. 

“We are still learning how to play with each other and we’re getting there,” Makurat added. 

Despite the loss and 0-3 start, Roberts says the team is improving with every game played.

“We showed some fight. This was a totally different team than I saw in Cincinnati. We had a hard week, but they showed fight, they showed that they want to win and they’re bought in. We’ll be OK. This game will make us better,” Roberts said.