Worn-down Ute women’s basketball team will halt its season, turning down a WNIT bid

Utah coach Lynne Roberts’ roster has been down to seven players since Feb. 22.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah women's basketball head coach Lynne Roberts talks to her team during practice at the Jon Huntsman Center on Wed. Jan. 2, 2019, as they prepare for their next game on Friday. The team is having one of the best starts in program history at 12-0.

With her roster having been reduced to seven active players for the past two weeks, Utah women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts will turn down a WNIT bid, she said Friday.

“We are worn down, and you can just see it,” Roberts said in a news release.

The Utes took the program’s highest-ever seed (No. 6) into this week’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas, but No. 11 Washington pulled off a 64-54 upset in the first round late Thursday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Utah finished 20-10, after once being 18-1 and ranked No. 14 nationally. The school’s spring break is scheduled next week.

The team lost No. 2 scorer Daneesha Provo to a knee injury in early January and then forward Dre’Una Edwards, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, was hurt Feb. 22. The Utes already were low in numbers due to preseason injuries, players redshirting, an admissions case and a midseason transfer.

Playing in the WNIT was meaningful to Roberts' program in her first three seasons at Utah, but she recognized that this week that “although I am a competitor and we want to play as much as we can, we also want to protect our student-athletes.”

Senior forward Megan Huff is a WNBA draft prospect. The Utes also will lose Provo, guard Erika Bean and reserve guard Sarah Porter from the program’s first 20-game winner since 2012-13. Utah’s 9-9 record in the Pac-12 and a tie for sixth place are benchmarks in eight years of conference membership.

“I am incredibly proud of our team and their resiliency throughout the year,” Roberts said. “They have been an absolute joy to coach. This group has been one of the most fun, most rewarding groups I have ever coached. We are laying the foundation and our seniors took this program to another level. … So, it is closure on this season, but the program is headed in the right direction.”

Corner Canyon High School guard Kemery Martin, who signed with the Utes in November, was named Friday as the Gatorade Player of the Year in Utah. The Chargers lost to East in the Class 5A state championship game.