SALT LAKE CITY — A furious rally in the fourth quarter fell short as the Washington State women couldn’t climb out of a 19-point hole in a 72-66 loss to Pac-12 foe Utah on Sunday at Huntsman Center.
WSU (14-7, 6-4) gathered momentum in the final period, forcing seven takeaways and outscoring the Utes (13-7, 4-4) by 13 points. The comeback attempt didn’t have enough steam and the Cougs had their four-game winning streak snapped.
“We just never really got a handle and got our urgency until the fourth quarter,” coach Kamie Ethridge said. “I’m proud of how they competed and came back. … We just weren’t quite up to the task, but we can learn a lot from this game.”
Utah trailed by six points midway through the first quarter before a seven-minute Cougar scoring drought and a 14-0 run from the hosts that extended into the second frame, during which the Utes drained three uncontested threes while holding WSU to nine points on a 2-of-12 mark from the field.
The Cougs trimmed their deficit to nine points midway through the third, but Utah answered with a 13-3 spurt and surged to its game-high, 19-point advantage late in the quarter.
“It felt like we got real soft and indecisive (after the early lead),” Ethridge said. “It just carried over. We couldn’t get a handle on anything really offensively, and that second quarter really hurt us.
“I think our kids really switched a gear and quit worrying about everything (in the fourth). They just had an urgency on the defensive end and that translated into a more aggressive mindset, attacking, and we made some shots. … You can claw yourself back into a game if you just stay with it, don’t get too down and compete possession by possession.”
Junior guard Johanna Teder scored nine of her game-high 16 points (4 of 11) in the Cougs’ 27-point fourth quarter. She tacked on six rebounds and six assists.
Standout sophomore guard Charlisse Leger-Walker tallied 15 points on 6 of 13 from the floor to go along with five boards, four blocks and three assists.
Junior post Bella Murekatete contributed 12 points for the Cougars, who shot 38.6% from the floor and 6 of 22 from three-point range.
Guards Brynna Maxwell and Gianna Kneepkens paced the Utes with 11 and 10 points, respectively. Utah shot 40.4% from the field, hit 9 of 21 from distance and made 17 of 20 free-throw attempts.
WSU, the No. 57 team in the NCAA’s NET rankings, has an opportunity to strengthen its postseason resume Wednesday, when the Cougars host 19th-ranked Oregon.