Utah Utes basketball: Cold spells doom U. women in loss

By Jessica Wilde

Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Jan. 15 2012 10:52 p.m. MST

Former Utah women's basketball coach Elaine Elliott is honored at half time as Utah and Cal Play Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — It was a night of ups and downs for the Utah women's basketball team as it suffered a loss to California, 63-56 on Sunday at the Huntsman Center.

The resilient California squad sits third in the Pac-12 (4-2) and hit Utah hard both in the paint and from the field. Despite the versatility of the Golden Bears, Utah displayed its own moments of brilliance, making runs and icing its opponent for minutes at a time. Had it lasted a full forty-minutes, the Utes would have left the Huntsman Center in better spirits.

"We just gotta figure out a way to put 40 minutes together. Unfortunately, the NCAA isn't going to let us petition for 32 minutes and a 45 second shot-clock," Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. "They're not going to let us have that so we need to keep getting longer stretches."

The first half was marked with several lead changes and well-matched competition, although Cal challenged Utah with its all-around athleticism. The tenacious Golden Bears were quick off the dribble and controlled the key, muscling their way to the basket time and time again.

However, the Utes were able to hang on with a well-distributed scoring effort.

With Utah trailing 21-19 at halftime, Cal opened the second half with a 10-0 run. Gennifer Brandon, held scoreless in the first half, opened up the second with nine of the 10 points for the Golden Bears. Cal was opportunistic, creating mayhem with a full-court press and capitalizing on Utah mistakes.

"They came out and pressed in the second. We knew they were going to," Levrets said. "We didn't execute in press attack. Once we did, we didn't make it every time, but we got good shots. It just took us a couple minutes to adjust."

Finally, with 14:15 remaining, Utah's Cheyenne Wilson ended the dry spell, touching off what turned into an 11-4 Utah run over the next three minutes to cut that lead to 35-31. Michelle Plouffe hit two of her second-half 3-pointers in the run.

The Utes would suffer another 7-0 Golden Bear run just minutes later, however, giving Cal a 13-point advantage with five minutes remaining.

Refusing to give up, Utah battled back yet again to come within two points, 53-51, with 2:28 on the clock. Iwalani Rodrigues sparked the Utah offense from long-range, finding her rhythm and sinking two of her second-half 3-pointers.

Layshia Clarendon turned the tide for the Golden Bears one last time with a tough baseline jumper, and after Plouffe missed a three at the other end of the floor, Reshanda Gray put the Cal lead back up to six with a layup, 57-51.

Plouffe was fouled on a drive and hit both free throws to cut the lead to four points with a minute in the game, but the Utes would get no closer.

Plouffe led Utah with 19 points, while Rodrigues earned 18. Janita Badon executed masterfully from the point, tying her career high with 10 assists and pulling down a team-high eight rebounds for Utah.

Email: jwilde@desnews.com

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