SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women's basketball team finished out its regular season with a 65-47 victory over the Oregon Ducks. The Ducks defeated the Utes (72-67) upon their last meeting, but Saturday was an entirely different story.
Utah not only outscored their opponents, it outhustled, out-rebounded, and earned an all-around polished victory. With the win, the Utes enter the Pac-12 tournament on back-to-back victories — something that will surely provide an extra boost of confidence.
"No one in this building thought we had a chance to win on Thursday night (Oregon State) and no one thought we would win today except for our group," Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. "We've managed to put together something I'm really proud of."
The Utes trailed by as much as eight points (18-10) midway through the first half, struggling to get things going offensively.
"I thought we were going to start making shots," Levrets said of his thoughts during the cold spell. "The strength of this team is that we shoot the basketball pretty well. We have kids who can shoot the ball and ultimately they're going to make the shots against a zone."
With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Levrets' prediction came true.
Michelle Plouffe and Taryn Wicijowski combined for 12 points in a 19-2 run. Plouffe drained two 3-pointers and earned one in the paint while Wicijowski had a lay-up and jumper.
The Ducks had just one field goal in the final 10 minutes, and Utah led by nine at halftime, 29-20. Plouffe finished the half with 14 points.
If Plouffe was the key ingredient in the first half, Iwalani Rodrigues was in the second. The tenacious guard finished with 19 points total and had 16 in the second half.
She earned a quick six points from beyond the 3-point arc in the first two minutes of the half, contributing heftily to an early 8-0 surge.
Rodrigues had four 3-pointers, five rebounds, and three steals. Plouffe earned the double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Wicijowski finished with a double-double as well, dropping 13 and snagging 11 rebounds.
The Utes pulled down 13 offensive rebounds and scored 12 second-chance points. Though the offense was rolling, the real difference came on the defensive end of the court.
"Our goal was to make them work in the shot clock on the defensive end of the floor," Levrets said. "If we took an early shot, I was OK with that as long as they didn't get an early one on the other end."
According to Levrets, the Ducks like to score early.
"If they don't, it makes them work harder and is tough on them offensively," he said. "That was our plan and our kids executed it perfectly."
The Utes were forced to play without the help of senior point guard Janita Badon. Badon has missed the last three games due to a knee injury and will likely miss the conference tournament as well.
"She's done so much for this program. It's immeasurable what her personality means to this team."
Badon was honored prior to the game as part of senior day.
The Pac-12 Tournament begins on Wednesday, March 7, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. Pairings will be announced by the Pac-12 on Sunday.