Utah Utes women's basketball: Early foul trouble puts Utes in disarray
LOS ANGELES — Utah's most recent injury proved to be its most devastating in its quest for another appearance in the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
Without point guard Janita Badon, the seventh-seeded Utes' offense collapsed in a 55-41 loss to 10th-seeded Colorado in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament on Wednesday night at USC's Galen Center.
Badon, a senior who led Utah to the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship last year, missed the previous four games because of a sprained knee. Nevertheless, the Utes (15-15) won two of those games.
But against Colorado (18-12), the Utes shot just 25.5 percent — and scored just one point in a span of nearly 14 minutes in the first half.
"I don't think we were taking bad shots," said forward Taryn Wicijowski, who led Utah with 18 points. "We just weren't taking the best shots possible."
The situation deteriorated when Iwalani Rodrigues, the substitute point guard, committed her third personal foul with 7:14 left in the first half. Rodrigues went to the bench and did not return until the second-half tipoff.
"She was our third point guard this year," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. "When she goes out, we don't have another point guard."
With Rodrigues in foul trouble, Utah had to scramble.
"I can assure you, there were lineups on the floor that I've never seen before," Levrets said. "Once we got some weird lineups out there, it's just really hard to execute anything."
Cheyenne Wilson's 3-pointer gave Utah a 10-8 lead but the Buffaloes responded with a 22-1 blitz that put them ahead, 30-11, with 1:16 before halftime.
The Utes not only missed 20 of 26 shots in the first half — including 16 in a row — but committed nine turnovers. Michelle Plouffe, Utah's leading scorer, failed to record a point.
"Colorado pressured us, turned us over and got baskets out of that," Levrets said. "More than that, they made us play fast and took us out of what we were trying to do. They were clearly the aggressor."
Utah's 11-1 surge narrowed the deficit to 43-36 with 5:38 to play. But Colorado's Chucky Jeffery scored 10 of her 20 points in the final 5:13, while the Utes managed only five points.
Jeffery added 14 rebounds and two steals, and teammate Brittany Wilson scored a game-high 21 points. Plouffe finished with eight points, nine rebounds, three blocks, three steals and three assists.
Despite the loss, Levrets favorably compares this season's Utes to the team that pestered Notre Dame in last year's NCAA Tournament.
"It's been remarkable," Levrets said. "We've had four season-ending injuries and six that have been six weeks or longer. But I am as proud of this team because of what it has been able to accomplish as any group I've ever been with."
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