March 20, 2013
Update: Utah will host San Diego in the second round on Monday, March 25, at 7:00 p.m. MT
LONG BEACH, Calif. - The Utah women's basketball team opened the WNIT with a 56-49 victory over Long Beach State on Wednesday evening.
Utah will move on to face the winner of San Diego and Hawaii, who play on Thursday evening. Time, date and location will be determined following that game.
Michelle Plouffe led Utah with 17 points and 14 rebounds for her ninth double-double of the year. She moved into ninth all-time at Utah in scoring with 1,466 career points. Plouffe also set a single-season record for defensive rebounds with 219 for the year.
Although Utah held a slight lead the entire game, the lead stayed in single digits as Long Beach State consistently answered the Utes baskets. Despite struggling with defensive pressure from the 49ers, leading to 18 turnovers, Utah was buoyed by 48 percent shooting on the night. The Utes made seven three-pointers.
"I am really proud of our team for their effort," Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. "It's hard to prepare for a team like that in a short period of time. [Long Beach State's] pressure really took us out of what we do well, which is ball movement and player movement. We tried to dribble it and it led to turnovers, and you have to give them credit for that. That's how they beat Washington and Arizona in this building. We're fortunate that we were able to get out of here with a win.
"I think for parts of the game we handled the pressure, and when we did handle the pressure it led to easy baskets for us. We shot 48 percent, and when you do that on the road you're pretty happy. And we defended like we always do. We defended and we rebounded and they made a couple of three's, but for most of the game we really defended them well."
In the second half, Long Beach State cut an early nine-point Utah lead down to four points, 41-37 with 7:33 remaining. It was as close as the 49ers were able to come the remainder of the way, as the Utes rallied to pull away in the final minutes. Utah held a five-point lead, 44-39 with 6:30 remaining and increased that lead to 15 points, 54-39 with three minutes left after a 10-0 run.
Long Beach State continued to fight until the end, outscoring Utah 9-2 over the final three minutes of the game for the final seven-point margin.
"We're really excited," Levrets said. "This time of year you get to play and win and you get to play again. We'll find out who we play tomorrow night and it will be exciting to get prepared for another postseason game."