Utah fell to Arizona State on Sunday afternoon, 80-60, to finish its four-game road stint 2-2. The Sun Devils have won 12 straight games and lead the Pac-12 as the only undefeated team in conference play this season.
ASU controlled the contest from the opening to the closing horn in a game in which Utah never led. The Sun Devils jumped out early with an 11-4 run in which all starters for ASU scored. The Sun Devils closed the opening period by outscoring Utah 25-12 in a clear effort to protect their home court.
Utah fought back in the second quarter behind junior forward Paige Crozon, who scored 10 of her game-high 20 points in the period. Fueled by Crozon and senior point guard Dani Rodriguez, who combined for 16 of Utah’s 20 second quarter points, the Utes were able to trim ASU’s lead to just 36-32 heading into the break.
Utah was certainly feeling good about its chances at intermission following its big late-game comeback win agaisnt Cal last week. But it was not to be for Utah this time, as ASU charged out at halftime, outscoring the Utes 25-12 in the third period. The Sun Devils used a balanced attack from which Utah was never able to recover.
ASU controlled the second half to remain undefeated in conference play this year. ASU center Quinn Dornstauder led all Sun Devils in scoring with 14 points, but it was a balanced attack that earned ASU the win as four players scored in double-figures for the ball game. Crozon led all scorers with 20 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as well.
Sloppy ball-handling plagued Utah again in this contest, as the team turned the ball over 22 times. Arizona State made the Utes pay for their struggles, scoring 23 points off turnovers for the ball game.
“A lot of those turnovers were not forced, so we just have to have a lot of pride in taking care of the ball,” Crozon said in a postgame interview with ESPN 700. “Every time we turned it over they were coming right back at us and capitalizing. If you limit those turnovers, that’s the ball game right there.”
Turnovers have been a problem for the Utes all season, as they have given the ball away more than any other Pac-12 team except Cal. While turnovers are more a bi-product of up-tempo offense than a correlation to winning (several of the top 10 ranked teams in the nation are near the bottom halves of their conferences in turnovers per game) they stunt a team’s ability to make opponents play them in a set, half-court defense.
In its four-game road stint, the Utes averaged 21 turnovers per game, an area head coach Lynne Roberts will certainly look to tighten up in the days before their next game.
All in all, the Utes are happy with their performance on the road the last two weeks, splitting their victories 2-2 and earning a big win over a ranked opponent in Cal.
“Any time we put on a jersey we want to play to win, so we certainly wanted to compete,” Roberts said in her interview with ESPN 700. “[But] we got the split on the road, and that’s always the goal, to at least get a split, and we did.”
The Utes now return to Salt Lake City, where they will play their next five games, starting with No. 12 Oregon State this Friday at 8 p.m. MST.
“We have to take a lesson from this loss today and just bring it at home. I know with the intense competitors that we have on this team, I think we have something to prove, and I think we’ll bring it next weekend,” Crozon said.