The Pac-12 has four of the top eight women’s basketball teams in the country. Of those four, Utah just played three of them in a row.
That’s the bad news for the Utes. The good news is, that stretch is over. After getting routed at No. 3 Oregon State and No. 2 Oregon last weekend, Utah hung around with No. 8 UCLA for most of the first three quarters, even taking the lead for a spell, but the end result was the same.
After Utah took a lead late in the third quarter, the Bruins closed the period on an 11-1 run, including eight points over the final 1:32, ultimately closing out the Utes, 84-54, in front of 3,053 at the Huntsman Center.
A free throw from redshirt junior guard Julie Brosseau put Utah (7-8, 0-4 Pac-12) in front, 42-41, with 2:12 to play in the third quarter. UCLA (15-0, 4-0) made sure the lead would be the Utes’ last.
The Bruins turned up the aggression on both ends. Michaela Onyenwere gave UCLA the lead back with a layup before two Japreece Dean free throws extended to a 45-42 advantage. Onyenwere hit two free throws of her own, and after Natalie Chou stole the ball from Niyah Becker, she calmly knocked down an eight-foot jumper to give UCLA a 49-42 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“I felt like we had momentum, but that moment, it was kind of like, ‘Whoa,’ ” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said, trying to describe that juncture in which UCLA took control for good. “I don’t know what it was. I just felt like we were so close. We competed, our kids were in it.”
“I think we just lost focus,” Brosseau said after scoring 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting. “We missed some opportunities to get some stops, then we missed some opportunities to score, and it just snowballed. We didn’t really see it because we were so in the moment, but we definitely made some mistakes.”
As UCLA took control, Utah only managed three shot attempts, all misses, over the final 3:23 of the third quarter.
With the Bruins playing downhill at this point, they left no doubt, ripping off a 35-point fourth quarter to make the final score look much worse than the game actually was.
In that fourth quarter, which saw the lead balloon to as many as 32 with 55 seconds left, UCLA shot 81.3% from the floor and 85.7% from 3-point range.
After Utah took that 42-41 lead, the game ended on a 43-12 run over the final 12:12.
“We had the toughest start in the conference with who we played, and we have to just continue to chop,” Roberts said. “At some point, we will have our breakthrough game. In that third quarter, I thought, ‘Here we go, this could be the moment.’
“The message is, we’re so close, and I hope what they see is that it sucks to lose and we should be disappointed.”