Jan. 18, 2013
SALT LAKE CITY - The Utah women's basketball team rallied from an early deficit before losing a lead in the final seconds against Arizona on Friday night, 62-58.
Three Utes scored in double figures, led by 18 points, nine rebounds, five steals and three blocks by Michelle Plouffe. Iwalani Rodrigues scored 16 points while Taryn Wicijowski scored 12 points with five rebounds.
"As a staff we are really proud of our team," Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. "We have been through struggles here lately and our kids keep battling. I'm really pleased with our effort. It's really frustrating to lose a game that way. We feel like the team did everything they could do to put themselves in an opportunity to win the game and missing free throws down the stretch...our kids are hurting right now. We've just got to stay positive and keep putting that kind of effort forth and hopefully the outcome will be different for our group."
After being down by as many as eight points in the first half and four points at halftime, 32-28, the Utes tied the game at 34-34 in the first three minutes of the second half. The score went back and forth through the second half, including nine ties. A contested jumper from Plouffe evened the score at 57-57 with 48 seconds remaining. Rodrigues gave the Utes a lead with a free throw after being fouled following a rebound, 58-57 with 30 seconds left, making the top half of a one-and-one. Plouffe had a chance to increase the lead after she was fouled on the inbounds after a jump ball, but could not make her free throw.
The Wildcats took possession with the rebound on Plouffe's missed free throw, with Davellyn White scoring a layup with 14 seconds remaining and turning it into a three-point play after she was fouled, giving Arizona a two-point lead. Although Utah had another chance at the charity stripe with nine seconds remaining after Rachel Messer was fouled, she was unable to find the bottom of the net. Arizona made two free throws in the final seconds to increase its lead.
Utah missed three free throws in the final 30 seconds. The Utes were just 3-of-9 from the free-throw line in the game.
"It's really weird what's been going on with our team right now," Levrets said. "We've spent more time this year shooting and shooting free throws. [The] kids shot it like crazy over the summer. I think they shot 1,500 shots a week and we shot thousands of free throws. We really feel like it's a strength of our team, and early in the season it was. For whatever reason, basketball is a crazy game. Right now, we can't buy a bucket. When we need a three we miss an open three, and when we need a free throw we miss a free throw. Our kids are working their tails off. It's not for a lack of effort and time put in; I can assure you of that."
Utah shot 50 percent from the field, its best shooting percentage since shooting 50.9 percent in the season opener against Denver. The Utes also had a season-high 12 steals.
"You shoot 50-percent from the floor in your own building, you feel like you have a chance to win," Levrets said. "We turned it over a bunch early in the game. You've got to give Arizona a lot of credit. It's hard to prepare for that frantic, frenetic pressure that they put on you. Once we settled into the game we did a great job - once you get past it, you get wide-open shots and layups. We probably still missed a few easy shots that you feel like you should make, but for the most part after 7-8 minutes it was about where we wanted it."
Utah returns to the court on Sunday, January 20, against Arizona State. Tip is at 3:00 p.m. MT.