The No. 4 Utah women’s basketball team never led in its 84-77 loss at No. 21 Baylor on Tuesday night at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.
That doesn’t tell the full story as to why the Utes couldn’t pick up what would have been an impressive road victory in the young season.
The biggest factor
The main culprit in Utah’s loss at traditional power Baylor was the Utes’ propensity for turnovers — they had 18 on the night.
Baylor turned those takeaways into 27 points.
Utah, meanwhile, scored 11 points off 13 Bears turnovers.
That disparity ended up being a huge factor on a night when Utah still found itself within a couple possessions midway through the fourth quarter but rarely made it easy on itself.
“Baylor beat us. There’s a lot that goes into that. I thought they played really well,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said, according to The Associated Press. “I think they played a little more inspired than we did. You know, maybe some of that was because we lost (Alissa) Pili (early). She kind of makes us go, especially on the road.”
Other key takeaways
Foul trouble issues: Speaking of Pili, Utah’s All-American forward, she was absent for most of the first half. After she picked up her second foul just 1:51 into the contest, she sat the rest of the half, which played a role in Baylor marching out to an early 19-9 lead in the first quarter.
When Pili finally got on the court, she had a solid night, finishing with 22 second-half points to lead all scorers.
Pili made 9 of 11 shots from the field, while adding three rebounds and a blocked shot, though she also had four turnovers.
“Our game plan was to get Pili in foul trouble,” Baylor coach Nicki Collen told the AP. “We thought the best way to defend her was her sitting on the bench. So that worked really well early, it worked a little bit faster than I anticipated.”
Gianna Kneepkens also had foul trouble, picking up her fourth foul late in the third quarter. The junior guard had 18 points and seven rebounds, though she also had a team-high seven turnovers.
Baylor better at the 3-point, free-throw lines: One game after Utah hit a school-record 21 3-pointers in a win against overmatched South Carolina State, the Utes made just 6 of 24 from long range against Baylor.
The Bears made 10 of 24 3-point attempts, and their last three makes came at particularly critical junctures.
Just a few minutes after Utah had fought back to tie the game at 51-all with 4:25 left in the third quarter, Baylor’s Bell Fontleroy hit a 3-pointer at the quarter buzzer to push the Bears’ lead back to nine at 63-54.
Then after a Pili jumper pulled the Utes within four at 68-64 with 5:45 to play, Sarah Andrews nailed a 3 to make it a seven-point game.
A minute later, Andrews again made a clutch 3 to push Baylor ahead 76-68, and Utah never got within five the rest of the way.
Baylor was also better at the free-throw line: The Bears made 10 of 12 from the line, while the Utes shot just 9 of 17.
Who carried the Bears to victory: A familiar face helped Baylor beat Utah. Forward Dre’Una Edwards, who was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year with the Utes during the 2018-19 season, finished with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, four blocked shots and two steals.
“Energy was the biggest thing for us, we had to come out very intense,” Edwards, who scored half her points in the first quarter, said in an ESPN+ postgame interview. “I took on that role as a team leader. I just told myself I had to get us going.”
Andrews had 18 points to pace the Bears offensively — that included six free throws in the game’s final minute — while Aijha Blackwell nearly had a double-double with 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Utes (2-1) now head to Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout, where Pili will get to play in her hometown.
Utah faces Alaska Anchorage on Saturday night, then either Eastern Kentucky or UAB on Sunday.