Women’s Basketball: Late Utah run not enough to upset No. 11 Beavers

IMG_3201horizontal Emily Juchau

On Friday night Utah fell to the defending Pac-12 champions, the Oregon State Beavers, 62-53, in a defensive slugfest. Utah center Emily Potter earned her 10th double-double on the season with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Senior guard for the Beavers Jamie Weisner led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-17 from the floor.

Utah Utes sophmore Tanaeya Boclair (32) drives the ball at the Utah vs Oregon State basketball game, Friday January 22, 2016 (Mike Sheehan, Daily Utah Chronicle).

Utah Utes sophmore Tanaeya Boclair (32) drives the ball at the Utah vs Oregon State basketball game, Friday January 22, 2016 (Mike Sheehan, Daily Utah Chronicle).

Oregon State came into tonight’s contest as the best defensive team in the Pac-12, holding teams to 0.74 points per possession, and the Beavers didn’t skip a beat putting the clamps on Utah. OSU held the Utes to a season-low eight points in the first quarter on a measly 4-of-18 mark from the floor, while jumping out to an early 20-8 lead to close the opening period.

Utah battled back in the second quarter, earning points at the free-throw stripe. Oregon State fouls less than any other Pac-12 team, but in the second quarter, the Utes attacked the basket, drew contact and made the refs blow their whistles. Utah trimmed the OSU lead to just eight after earning 10 trips to the line in the second quarter.

Utah came out of the halftime break with energy but was unable to turn it into any sort of run. For the first several minutes of the quarter both teams traded buckets.

Then, midway through the third period, dead-eye shooter Katie Kuklok, who had a quiet first half, launched a three-ball on a quick release. The ball caught the back of the rim, lofted high above the backboard, came down and hung to the iron like a tight-rope before falling into Oregon State hands. It was a play that seemed to encapsulate the entire game to that point for the Utes — nothing was falling, and the Beavers were rolling.

Utah UTes head coach Lynne Roberts yells to her team at the Utah vs Oregon State basketball game, Friday January 22, 2016 (Mike Sheehan, Daily Utah Chronicle).

Utah UTes head coach Lynne Roberts yells to her team at the Utah vs Oregon State basketball game, Friday January 22, 2016 (Mike Sheehan, Daily Utah Chronicle).

The Utes came out flat again in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, swapping blows with the Beavers like prizefighters in the closing rounds of a big fight. But as time dwindled, with the Beavers appearing more and more the victors of the contest, the Utes caught fire.

With just five minutes remaining and a gamescore of 56-36, Potter flipped up a runner in the lane that would catalyze a 15-0 Utah run.

“We just played fearlessly and got after it, which, when you’re playing a team like them, that’s kind of how you have to play the whole game,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts. “It was like, screw it, we got nothing to lose here — let’s go all out.”

The Utah run was fueled by a balanced offensive attack and an aggressive defensive front, with the Utes forcing six turnovers in the four-minute span.

In the end, Oregon State held on, making its free throws in the final minutes to seal the 62-53 final score.

Weisner led the Beavers’ offense all night, hitting three triples throughout the contest. She also chipped in six rebounds and three assists for Oregon State.

“Weisner’s a good player, overall. She’s going to get her points either way,” Boclair said.

On the defensive end, the Beavers were anchored by leading shot blocker in the Pac-12 Ruth Hamblin, who swatted away eight Utah shots in the contest.

“They’re very, very good defensively, in large part because of her,” Roberts said of Hamblin’s impact. “She’s big and long and active.”

Friday’s game against the Beavers marks the third week in a row the Utes have faced a top-15 ranked team, first Stanford, then ASU and finally OSU.

With four home games ahead of them, the Utes will look to regain their footing in the Pac-12 standings, starting with Oregon this Sunday at 2 p.m. MST.

w.porter@dailyutahhronicle.com

@westinjay