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Women's basketball roundup: Utes make crucial free throws down the stretch

Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Feb. 11 2012 10:57 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Free throws down the stretch helped lift the Utes to a 73-67 victory over Arizona on Saturday afternoon.

Both teams were in the bonus in the final four minutes of the game. After a pair of free throws from Janita Badon, the Utes (12-12, 5-8) led by seven, 62-55 with two minutes remaining. Arizona's Erica Barnes made a basket after a steal to cut the lead to five before the Wildcats began to foul with just under a minute remaining.

The Utes went 11-of-14 from the charity stripe in the final minute. Arizona (13-12, 2-11) made four baskets and two free throws of their own in the same span to cut the lead down to two points with 26 seconds remaining by taking advantage of a miss on two consecutive Utah attempts at the line. Rachel Messer (who was 9-of-10 from the free-throw line in the game) was 4-for-4 on her free-throw attempts in the last 25 seconds, while Arizona missed their final two attempts from the field, and Utah pulled down the rebounds.

Michelle Plouffe had 22 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. Taryn Wicijowski tallied 20 points. Messer had all nine of her points from the free-throw line. Rachel Morris tallied a career-high eight points.

The Utes shot 49 percent from the field. The Utes were 26-for-31 from the free-throw line.

"I am very pleased with the weekend," Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. "Getting our first sweep in a conference weekend is really nice for our team. Getting a sweep against Arizona is really nice for our team too. More importantly is how we did it. We committed in practice to working on us for a few days and I was really pleased with our defensive improvement. Arizona is a talented offensive basketball team. They have so many guards who can score that it's tough to guard them. We did a really nice job. We also defended our tails off against ASU, so it was a really good weekend for us."

Utah was down by as many as seven points in the second half. Down by six points, 39-33 with 17 minutes left, a 9-1 run gave Utah a 42-40 lead with 14 minutes remaining. The Utes would extend that run into a 17-3 run to take an eight-point advantage, 50-42, with just under nine minutes remaining.

The first half had seven ties and four lead changes. The Utes held as much as a five-point lead in the first half, but a late surge by Arizona gave the Wildcats a five-point lead at halftime, 34-24. Utah shot 48 percent in the first half compared to 33 percent shooting for Arizona, but the Wildcats scored 10 points off seven Utah turnovers. Wicijowski and Plouffe each had nine points at halftime to pace the Utes, while Arizona was paced by 15 points from Davellyn Whyte.

"We shot the ball well in the first half, but we turned it over way too much," Levrets said. "As we got that under control we got some easy baskets and got some post feeds."

Whyte led Arizona with 22 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Barnes had 17 points.

The Utes play just one game next week, taking on rival Colorado on Saturday, Feb. 18, in Boulder.

UTAH STATE 57, NEW MEXICO STATE 45: At Logan, Three players in double-figures led Utah State (16-7, 7-2 WAC) to a successful Play 4Kay event, wearing pink-themed warm-ups and pink socks in its effort to promote breast cancer awareness. NMSU (5-19, 2-7) lost its second in a row and sixth in the last eight. With the win, the navy Aggies swept the season series over the maroon Aggies for the third time in seven seasons as WAC foes, and was USU's fourth straight win over NMSU, cutting the deficit to 18-15 in the maroon Aggies' favor.

Junior guard Jenna Johnson led Utah State with a season-high 11 points, while senior forward Maddy Plunkett and junior guard Devyn Christensen netted 10 points apiece. Christensen scored all 10 of her points in the second half, as USU pulled away from a 27-18 halftime lead, improving to 13-2 on the season when leading at intermission.

Senior forward Ashlee Brown pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds to go with seven points. Saturday was Brown's ninth double-digit rebounding outing, and she also dished out a season-high five assists. Plunkett matched Brown with five assists for a new career-high.

NMSU also had three players in double-figures, led by Tabytha Wampler's game-best 12 points, while Kelsie Rozendaal and Dre Chenier tossed in 10 each. Wampler and Erica Sanchez snared seven rebounds each as the maroon Aggies had a slight 38-35 rebounding edge, as USU is now 8-7 when outrebounding the opposition.

The home Aggies shot 22-of-53 (41.5 percent) from the field, including 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) from 3-point range, as Plunkett hit a pair of treys and senior guard Brooke Jackson added one. USU was also 10-of-12 (83.3 percent) at the free-throw line.

NMSU made 31.0 percent (18-of-58) of its field goals, making 17.4 percent (4-of-23) behind the arc, and were 5-of-7 (71.4 percent) at the charity stripe.

The USU defense forced 20 NMSU turnovers, which the home team converted into a 26-12 points off turnovers advantage, and Utah State also had a 36-22 points in the paint edge.

Neither team could find the bottom of the net in the early going before NMSU's Rozendaal hit a layup with 17:35 on the clock for the visiting Aggies' lone lead of the game. USU later opened up a 16-8 lead after a Jackson layup at the 9:44 mark, but NMSU closed to 16-12 with 8:21 on the clock after a bucket by Camila Rosen. That would be the closest the maroon clad team would get, as the home Aggies took to 27-16 lead with eight seconds left in the half on an old-fashioned three-point play by Johnson before Rosen hit another basket with two ticks to go for the 27-18 halftime score in USU's favor.

Held scoreless in the first half, Christensen changed that in a hurry, sparking a 12-5 run to open the half with a layup just 24 seconds into action and closing it on another layup, both starting by steals from Johnson, and USU took a 39-23 lead with 16:05 on the second-half clock. New Mexico State closed the gap to seven on two different occassions, the last at 11:40 left after a layup by Wampler, but the home Aggies wouldn't let the visitors get any closer, as Christensen converted a three-point play with 10:53 on the clock and USU's defense closed out the win. The navy Aggie advantage grew to 52-38 with 3:55 to play on a Johnson jumper and NMSU didn't get any closer than nine points in the final minutes.

Utah State hits the road for its final regular-season road trip, heading to Reno, Nev., to take on Nevada on Thursday, Feb. 16 and at Fresno, Calif., against Fresno State on Saturday, Feb. 18. Both games on the road trip tip at 8 p.m. (MT). USU returns home to close out the regular season with a three-game homestand, opening on Saturday, March 25 against Idaho in a 2 p.m. tipoff.

SUU 58, IUPUI 48: At Cedar City, Kimie Hawkins turned in a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with 16 points, hitting a career-best 12 free throws on 14 attempts to help SUU earn its fourth home victory this season.

"That was a great team effort,"? said SUU head coach JR Payne after the game. "Kimie was great, Angel Dorn gave us some great minutes and Taylor Maynes did well."

The Thunderbirds got things going behind the efforts of Tayler Anderson, who scored 11 of the team's first 15 points to help SUU (6-19, 2-12 Summit) build a four-point edge halfway through the opening period. The junior forward started the game 4-of-5 from the field, which included a step-back trey from the left wing.

The T-Birds increased their advantage in the closing minutes of the half as Anderson stepped in front of a Jaguar pass and found Angel Dorn streaking down the court in transition for a layup and a foul. Her free throw put SUU up 25-18 with 2:50 left on the clock. Southern Utah then got back-to-back baskets from Dorn and Kimie Hawkins to increase its lead to 29-21 at the break.

The Thunderbirds shot the ball 44 percent in the first half while their defense held IUPUI to just 28.6 percent. Anderson's 11 led all scorers in the opening period and freshman forward Nevena Markovic had seven for the Jaguars.

Carli Moreland scored the first basket of the second half to make the score 31-21 in favor of SUU. The Jaguars (11-14, 6-7) narrowed the margin with four-straight points, but after two more layups from Moreland the T-Birds went back up by 10 at 37-27.

IUPUI chipped away at the lead over the next six minutes and was able to pull within five as a pair of free throws by Kerah Nelson made the score 41-36 approaching the seven-minute mark. SUU then used an 11-5 run, capped by a fast break layup as Taylor Maynes found Jones in transition, to push the margin back into the double figures as it went up 52-41 with three minutes left to play.

The Jaguars got back within six on a basket by Del'Niqua Bellamy, but Jones came right back with a pull-up jumper to put SUU up 54-46. Maynes then added a three-point play in the closing moments and Anderson added a free throw to set the final score at 58-48 for the Thunderbirds.

Hawkins was one of three Thunderbirds to finish in double figures, as SUU got 12 from Moreland and another 13 from Anderson, who matched her career best. Freshman forward Nevena Markovic led the Jaguars with 16 of her own.

The Thunderbird defense was solid throughout, holding the Jaguars to just 30.6 percent shooting on the night, the lowest mark of any SUU opponent this season. SUU was able to hold Jaguar forward Kerah Nelson to just five points on 1-10 shooting. The junior came into the game as one of the Summit League's top-scorers averaging 16.7 points per game.

The T-Birds also held a significant advantage on the glass in the contest, outrebounding IUPUI by a count of 48-29.

"We've done a good job rebounding all year,"? said Payne. "Tonight some of those O-boards translated into baskets for us."

The T-Birds will look for a second consecutive home win Monday when they host Western Illinois. SUU will tip things off against the Leathernecks in the Centrum Arena at 7 p.m. MT.

NORTHERN ARIZONA 85, WEBER STATE 82: At Ogden, Northern Arizona scored to take the lead after stealing an inbounds pass with 10 seconds left and then converted a pair of free throws with three-tenths of a second left. The loss spoiled a record-breaking night for junior forward Amanda Hughes, who pulled down a Big Sky Conference single-game record 24 rebounds to go along with 20 points. Hughes' rebounding total is tied for the second most in Weber State history, trailing only a 26-rebound effort by Kathy Miller against Colorado in 1977. Two other Weber State players, Cindy Stumph and Miller, recorded 24-rebound effort nights, with the last coming 30 years ago.

Hughes had 15 of those rebounds in the second half as the Wildcats (2-23, 0-12 Big Sky) rallied from a double-digit deficit to take the lead in the final minute.

Junior guard Megan Patterson added 23 points, knocking down five 3-pointers, to lead Weber State in scoring, knocking down 14 second-half points. Senior guard Caela Mohre added 16 points, while junior forward Shawnte Taylor added 11 and senior center Mikell Woodfield added 10 as the Wildcats reached a season-high point total.

Weber State staked out an 11-point lead in the opening half, but Northern Arizona rallied to tie things up at 40-all at halftime.

The Lumberjacks charged out early in the second half, building a 71-57 advantage with 9:54 remaining, but the Wildcats stormed back behind three 3-pointers from Patterson. Taylor's tip-in with 93 seconds forged a 81-81 tie, and Hughes' free throw with 50 seconds to play gave Weber State the lead.

Weber State will remain home to face Montana on Thursday at the Dee Events Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

UTAH VALLEY, CHICAGO STATE 61: At Orem, the Wolverines exacted some revenge for a 27-point Great West Conference loss less than two weeks ago in Chicago. The Wolverines got great production from the backcourt as guards Whitney Jenkins, Jenna Johnson, and Alle Finch all finished in double figures, and Sammie Jensen notched her 13th double-double on the year.

"We didn't have our perimeter kids step up on Thursday night (a 48-46 loss to NJIT) and I challenged the guards to make plays today," said UVU head women's basketball coach Cathy Nixon. "I thought Jenna looked really aggressive tonight and Whitney played as well as she's played since she's been here. When we have balanced scoring to complement Sammie's consistent double-doubles we're a pretty good team."

After surrendering a big first-half lead to CSU (5-20, 3-4 GWC) and grinding to a 33-33 tie at halftime, the Wolverines (12-11, 4-2 GWC) scored four consecutive points to open the second frame, but had to sit starting point guard Abbie Beutler after the senior picked up her fourth personal foul just a minute and a half into the period.

A 9-0 Cougar run followed, giving Chicago State its largest lead of the game at 42-37 with 16:17 still to play.

But UVU would battle back, overtaking CSU at 47-44 after Jenkins buried a corner trey, and eventually growing the lead to six after another 3-pointer, this time from Johnson, at the 10:23 mark.

Back-to-back slashing layups from Cydne Mason and fast break connection from Jenkins to Finch for two highlighted a 10-2 Wolverine run over the next three minutes, as UVU took a 64-50 lead with 7:22 left in the game. All in all, the Wolverines pieced together a huge 27-8 run over a nine-minute span to seize control of the game. Johnson scored 11 of her 13 points during the pivotal stretch, while Jenkins dropped in seven.

Chicago State hung around for the last few minutes, but the outcome was never really in doubt as UVU held on to earn a split in the season series with the Cougars, winning 74-61.

In all, Jenkins led the Wolverines with a season-high 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and Jensen registered her seventh double-double in eight games with 14 points and a game-high 12 boards. Johnson's 13 were her highest scoring output since dropping 21 against San Jose State on Jan. 5, and Finch's 10 points rounded out UVU's double-digit scoring.

Mason put together a solid performance as well, coming in after Beutler got into foul trouble. The junior finished with six points and a game-high five assists — four of which came in the second half.

Chicago State was led by 12 points apiece from guards Tierra Williams and Jackie Jones. Janay Dockery, the conference's leading scorer who burned UVU for 26 points in this season's first meeting, was limited to just 11 points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field. The Wolverines also dominated the glass, outrebounding the Cougars 40-25.

UVU steps out of GWC play next week when it travels to the Pacific Northwest for a 5 p.m. MT time tilt Saturday evening at Seattle University. The Redhawks are 14-9 on the season and have won their last two games. The Wolverines will resume league play the following week with a pair of road games at Houston Baptist and Texas-Pan American.

NO. 19 WESTMINSTER 70, CARROLL 47: At Helena, Mont., the Griffins clinched a home game for the opening round of the Frontier Conference tournament with their sixth consecutive victory.

It was again the Westminster (17-7, 10-1) defense that carried them for much of the evening. They limited Carroll (10-13, 3-7) to just 40 percent shooting while forcing the Saints into 23 turnovers. Carroll entered the game averaging 59.8 points per game and was held below 50 points in a game for just the fourth time this season.

The Griffins also had things clicking offensively on Saturday. They shot 51.2 percent from the floor in the game, including a blistering 62.5 percent in the opening half. The 51.2 percent is the second-best shooting night this season and the highest in conference games. Westminster was also on fire from beyond the arc as they went 11-of-21 from long range. The 52.4 percent from deep is easily the highest this season while the 11 makes is tied for second-most in a game this year.

Jenteal Jackson finished the night with 20 points, falling just one point shy of her career high. Jackson shot 7-of-9 from the field while also connecting on four of her six attempts from beyond the arc. She also finished with a season-high seven assists with three rebounds and one blocked shot.

DIXIE STATE 80, ACADEMY OF ART 64: At St. George, Erica Hayes led Dixie State with 18 points, extending the Red Storm's winning streak to seven games and snapping the Academy of Art's nine-game string.

Dixie State (16-5, 11-2) takes over sole possession of first place in the Pacific West Conference.

SLCC 73, SNOW COLLEGE 66: At Taylorsville, the Bruins shot a lights out 61 percent in the second half to even their conference record at 5-5.

Sophia Hepworth led the offensive output with 23 points on 7 of 13 shooting and 9 of 10 from the foul line. Nicole Newbold finished with a double-double scoring 15 point with 10 rebounds. The Bruins used 14 second chance points and outrebounded Snow 38-21.

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