SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women’s basketball team expected perhaps its toughest non-conference game of the season Friday when Michigan came to town for its first-ever game at the Huntsman Center.
The Wolverines won 20 games last year, went to the NCAA Tournament and were receiving votes in national polls already this season. Ute coach Anthony Levrets called it a “big-girl” game.
So how did Utes handle it?
With ease, as it turned out.
The Utes jumped out to a 15-0 lead before the game was six minutes old and cruised to a 59-40 victory to improve to 3-0 on the season.
The Utes’ “Big Three” led the way as Michelle Plouffe scored 20 points, Taryn Wicijowski scored 17 and Iwalani Rodrigues added 12.
"I thought we would start well," said Levrets. "You never expect to be ahead of a team that you have a lot of respect for, and I have a lot of respect for [Michigan]. Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be 15-0.’’
Thanks to some hot shooting and tough defense, that’s exactly what the score was as the Utes took a quick two-touchdown lead.
The Utes kept going and with 12:35 left, they led 22-4 after making 9 of their first 10 shots. Meanwhile the Wolverines were just 2 of 10.
Of course, neither team could be as good and as bad and over the next nine minutes the Utes were only 1 of 10 from the field as Michigan cut the lead to nine at 24-15.
A tight 2-3 zone kept the Utes from scoring for more than six minutes, but the Utes made them pay with back-to-back 3-pointers and another one by Rodrigues made it 33-17.
“I was trying to get the ball into the post,'' said Rodrigues. "My coaches and teammates told me to shoot the ball and I did.’’
In the second half, the Utes kept a steady lead as the Wolverines never got closer than 15.
“We were ready mentally to play a really good basketball team,’’ said Plouffe. “We got focused on the defensive end.’’
For the game, the Utes had seven steals and six blocks and held the Wolverines to just 36-percent shooting from the field.
Levrets gushed about about how well his team shared the basketball and how it’s the most unselfish team he’s ever had. The Utes had 18 assists on their 24 baskets with Rodrigues leading the way with eight.
The Utes will play Northern Colorado at home Tuesday night before playing their first road game of the season Saturday at Weber State.