SALT LAKE CITY — University of Utah women's basketball coach Anthony Levrets was mighty proud of his team's effort in Friday's game against 15th-ranked Nebraska.
But he was quick to point out that effort wasn't quite enough for his young and talented team to knock off the more experienced Cornhuskers, who have four returning starters from last year's Sweet 16 team.
"I was really proud of our effort, but like I told our team, there's only 'W' and 'L' columns; there's no 'E' column," he said after the Utes came up on the short end of a 75-69 score. "And we're going to have to figure out how to finish off a game like this and be able to maintain our energy and focus for 40 minutes.
"I thought the start of the second half was a really critical time of the game for us," he said after his team squandered a 41-36 halftime lead. "In that little stretch there, I think they outscored us 8-0 to start the second half, and we were sort of playing catch-up the rest of the way. ... They came out and imposed their will on us."
Utah senior forward Michelle Plouffe scored 17 of her 27 points in the first half, and she also grabbed a dozen rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block. Danielle Rodriguez added 16 points and five assists, while Emily Potter contributed seven points and 10 rebounds for the Utes (1-1).
For Nebraska (2-0), Rachel Theriot scored a game-high 28 points, including six free throws in the final 35 seconds after Utah trimmed the Cornhuskers' seven-point lead to just two, 67-65, on back-to-back 3-pointers by Malia Nawahine.
Utah pulled within two twice more, at 69-67 and again at 71-69 with 14 seconds to go, but could get no closer as Nebraska refused to miss from the foul line.
Emily Cady and Jordan Hooper each had 13 points and combined for 21 rebounds for Nebraska.
"We're talented," Levrets said. "We're just young and talented. And young is gonna take a little while to get over. ... It's gonna take us a little while to get as good as we're gonna be. But I think we're good enough to win a lot of basketball games."
Plouffe agreed with that assessment.
"We have a bunch of talent on this team," she said, "but it's not going to be only talent; you're not going to win very many basketball games if you just go off of talent.
"It's going to be playing hard, being scrappy, playing defense and all those things that come along with talent. But if we can put all those things together, we can win a lot of basketball games."
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