Utah knew it was going to be a tall task if it was going to advance past the first round of the Pac-12 women's basketball tournament.
For the first quarter, the Utes appeared to be up to the challenge after taking a one-point lead into the second quarter.
But then the offense went cold over the final 30 minutes of play and Utah saw its season come to an end following its 58-47 loss to Washington State in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament.
"We just couldn't score," Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said postgame. "We got really, really good looks around the basket. We just missed so many shots, and it was an extremely physical game, so maybe in other games we get to the free throw line a little bit more. I thought our team did what we asked them to do. We were running the stuff that we wanted to run, getting to the paint, getting good shots, we just missed baskets."
Sophomores Brynna Maxwell and Kemery Martin — who were both named to the all-Pac-12 honorable mention team on Tuesday — finished with 15 and 13 points respectively while adding six rebounds apiece.
Despite the points, they struggled shooting the ball. They combined to go 9-for-27 form the field and 4-for-15 from beyond the arc.
Unfortunately they didn't get much help as their teammates combined for just 18 points, none of whom made more than one shot in the game.
As a team, the Utes shot 23.3% (14-for-60) from the floor and 22.7% (5-for-22) from three-point territory.
While the Utes were able to get nearly any shot they wanted on offense, the defense more than did its job.
They held Washington State to 33.3% (18-for-54) from the field and 33.3% (6-for-18) from three-point territory.
Charlisse Leger-Walker, the Pac-12 freshman of the year, led the Cougars with 15 points while Belle Murekatete and Krystal Leger-Walker added 13 and 12 points respectively. Murekatete added 12 rebounds while Krystal added eight rebounds and four assists.
Utah came out strong in the opening quarter as Martin had the hot hand early on.
With the Cougars keying on Maxwell, Martin was able to find her rhythm trough an array of jumpers and drives to the rim, finishing with eight points as the Utes took a 17-16 advantage.
Washington State slowly pulled away over the next two quarters, taking a 39-31 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of play. The Utes combined for just 14 points over the second and third quarters.
Utah made one last run to get back into the game, cutting the deficit to three following a Maxwell three-pointer with 6:15 to play. But the Cougars responded with a 9-0 run over the ensuing three minutes to put the game away.
"There is always a silver lining," Roberts said. "What do they say, 'it is always the darkest before the dawn.' I think we've got tremendous guard play, and we've got some tremendous guards coming in. We're just really young. I love this team, and I love this program. I don't love how we did this year in terms of outcome, but I do love and believe in them. There is no secret sauce, you just have to work hard and get better and that's what we've got to get back to."
Utah ended the season 5-16 overall and 4-15 in conference. But the record doesn't tell the entire story as Utah was in a number of close games throughout the season, and ideally those games will turn into victories next season.
"It's very bright. ... This is a very talented team," Maxwell said postgame when about Utah's future. "We barely, like, were touching it this season. There's some practices, some moments in games where you're stepping back, it's like, Wow, this is what we can do. I think this off-season, like, we just got to use the season, like I said, as motivation, to carry it forward. There's so much talent on this team. The sky's the limit for this team. It's just buckling down and doing the work, building that confidence up, transferring it into games."