Utes earn first conference victory

By Jason Nowa

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Jan. 20 2013 7:40 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY Michelle Plouffe and the (1-5, 10-7) Utah women's basketball team finally rid themselves of their six-game losing streak Sunday afternoon at the Huntsman Center.

Plouffe led the Utes with 18 points and eight rebounds on the day in a rout of the (2-4, 10-8) Arizona State Sun Devils, 66-46.

“This is our most complete game since the victory over Michigan. We finally played an entire 40 minutes,” said Plouffe.

It looked as if the Utes would have another tough day early on as the Sun Devils' shots were all falling as they took a 14-9 lead. The Utes used a 15-8 run through the next 10 minutes. Ten of Taryn Wicijowski’s 16 points came in the first half as she scored on a layup to put Utah up 24-22. The Utes never looked back, going into halftime with a 29-24 lead.

“Their pressure eased up halfway through the half, which gave me some easy looks,” said Wicijowski.

Utah came out strong to start the second half as it used a 13-4 run to go up 42-28 halfway through the half. The Utes took over the game from the free-throw line as they shot 83 percent while making 20 of 24 free-throw attempts.

Iwalani Rodrigues was named player of the game with 16 points, 7 rebounds and a team high 5 assists.

“She can shoot the ball. If she’s doing that and making great passes, it’s hard to guard her,” Plouffe said about Rodrigues.

The victory was the Utes' first in conference play this season.

“I’m proud of our team today. The hardest part of losing is suffering through the girls' struggles that you care so much about,” said head coach Anthony Levrets.

The Utes' defense was superb on the day as they held the Sun Devils to 32 percent shooting while forcing them into 16 turnovers. Utah had seven steals to go along in the defensive effort.

“Our bench was the big helper tonight as we defended well and kept up our energy,” said Levrets.

Utah has a tough road coming up, though, as it will not play a home game until Feb. 8. It will begin its four-game road trip this Friday at No. 6 Stanford, followed by No. 7 USC, and finishing up at No. 14 UCLA.

But as far as Levret is concerned, they can win. “This league is tough, but any given night we believe we can win.”

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