Rachel Messer scored 18 points against Northern Colorado, a career high.
Nov. 20, 2012
SALT LAKE CITY - The Utah women's basketball team needed a late rally after struggling from the floor in the second half to defeat Northern Colorado, 62-55 on Tuesday evening.
Michelle Plouffe reached 1,000 career points with 14 during the game, while Rachel Messer scored a career-high 18 points. Plouffe also had a team-best nine rebounds. Danielle Rodriguez was also in double figures with 12 points.
"I am really proud of my team for how they competed," Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. "We made plays when we needed to make them. It's not an excuse, and these things happen to every team, but we have a nasty flu going through our team. Rachel [Messer] was really sick and she played one of the best games I have seen her play.
"We have three 1,000-point scorers in the program right now, and that's a nice thing to have. It's great. The thing about Michelle tonight is that her defense was so good. We were having problems keeping [D'Shara Strange] out of the paint and we put Plouffe on her and she didn't score over the last six minutes. I was pleased with that far more than her baskets. Her versatility and what she is able to do, there are not many people who can do all the things that she does."
After holding a 35-21 lead at halftime, the Utes struggled to make baskets in the second half. Utah held a 12-point lead, 39-27 with 15:31 remaining in the second half, and Northern Colorado worked to chip away at that lead over a nearly 11-minute span, outscoring the Utes 18-4 over that time period with the run culminating in a 45-43 lead for the Bears.
The Utes responded to UNC taking the lead with a Cheyenne Wilson three-pointer at the other end of the floor to give the Utes back a one-point advantage, 46-45. Two free throws from Plouffe 20 seconds later gave the Utes a three-point lead, 48-45.
With the Utes up by one with three minutes left, 50-49, a Messer three pointer started a six-point run to give Utah a comfortable cushion, 56-49 with 1:30 remaining in the game. Free-throw shooting down the stretch helped Utah hold on to the lead. The Utes were also able to shut down UNC leading scorer D'Shara Strange during the final six minutes, holding her to just two free throws during the final span.
Strange scored 19 points for the Bears, while Lauren Oosdyke had 15 points and seven rebounds.
Although the Utes jumped out to an early first-half lead, Northern Colorado kept the game close. With the score tied 14-14 with 12:00 remaining in the first half, Utah broke away with an 8-0 run to pull ahead 22-14 with 9:30 left in the first half. The Utes continued to pull ahead at the end of the half to lead 35-21 at halftime. Messer had 11 first-half points, and the Utes had eight three's at halftime. The Utes struggled in the paint early, as UNC heavily guarded Plouffe and Taryn Wicijowski.
"With as good as our bigs are, teams are going to do that to us," Levrets said. "They are going to play in. They were in, and doubling every single time that it went to the post. They just dove at it. We only made six two-point baskets, which is crazy, considering how many two's we shoot from our bigs. [Three's] are what we had tonight, and we made them. I think we can shoot the ball really well as a group."
"Sometimes the ball doesn't go in the basket, and teams can commit to taking away players. If they can commit to taking away Taryn and tripling her every time she gets a catch, they can do that. The thing that was most frustrating thing was that it felt like even when we got some stops, they got offensive rebounds. They got 14 offensive rebounds. We have to clean that up. We held them to 31-percent shooting and they didn't make a three, which is great, but you have to not give them any extra possessions."
Utah goes on the road on Saturday, Nov. 24, for Weber State at 2:00 p.m. MT.