The second of three, three-game road trips comes to a close Wednesday when the Utah Valley University women's basketball team makes the short trip to face the University of Utah. The fifth meeting all-time between the Wolverines and Utes gets underway at 7 p.m. in Utah's Huntsman Center.
UVU (1-8) will be looking to snap a pair of losing streaks Wednesday night when it takes the floor against Utah. Currently on a seven-game skid, the Wolverines will also be looking for their first win ever against their in-state opponent as they presently sit at 0-4 in the series.
Last week, UVU dropped a pair of games at Boise State and Weber State as it began its brief December road swing. The Wolverines came out on the wrong end of a back-and-forth battle with Boise State on Thursday night, falling 63-60. Guard Katie Kuklok had a chance to tie the game with a 3-point attempt at the buzzer, but the last-ditch effort was too strong off the back iron.
Kuklok scored a game-high 29 points against the Broncos, a new season-high. She was joined in double figure scoring by Tina Doughty and her 14 points. A Boise native, Sam Loggins came up a bucket and a rebound short of her first career double-double after posting nine points and nine boards.
Against Weber State, Utah Valley enjoyed an 18-point lead with 8:30 still to play in the first half, but the Wolverines went ice-cold over the remaining minutes of regulation. After shooting 12-16 from the field to begin the game, UVU shot just 9-of-34 the rest of the way as it ultimately fell, 79-64. Doughty put up a season-best 27 points in the loss.
After her big weekend, Kuklok resumed her previous place atop the WAC scoring chart. The sophomore transfer leads the conference at 19.9 ppg — a figure that ranks 44th nationally. She also leads the league in made 3-pointers per game at 4.0 (second nationally) and is second in free-throw percentage at 91.2 (31st nationally).
Doughty is second on the team in scoring at 13.7 ppg after putting up her second 20-plus point output of the season Saturday.
At 3-4, Utah comes into Wednesday's meeting off a 61-57 victory over Nevada on Saturday. The Utes also have victories against Denver and at UNLV this season to go along with losses to Marquette, Butler, Utah State, and No. 15/12 Nebraska.
Michelle Plouffe, a 6-foot-4 senior forward, leads Utah on the year in scoring and rebounding. The Edmonton, Alberta, native is averaging a double-double with 18.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per contest. Plouffe has been named honorable mention All-American each of the last two seasons and was named to a third team Preseason All-American by the Sporting News earlier this year.
After Plouffe, true freshman Emily Potter is averaging 9.6 ppg, while sophomore Danielle Rodriguez sits at 9.0 ppg. Rodriguez also hands out 5.3 assists per outing.
"They're a good team, a big team with a lot of length and athleticism," UVU head coach Cathy Nixon said. "They're a team that's always a contender at the end of the year and they've gotten better since the year started. For us, we just want to go in and be competitive and face head on the challenges that they present."
Utah Valley has never defeated Utah but came closest during the 2006-07 season when the Utes needed double-overtime to pull out a 70-68 victory. Former Wolverine Julie McMurray saw her last-second 3-point attempt rim out as UVU fell in the only game of the series to be played in Orem.
In the most recent meeting, back on Dec. 28, 2011, the Utes cruised to an 82-51 victory at the Huntsman Center. UVU was led by 12 points from Sammie Jensen, while current Wolverines Kyra Prause and Whitney Jenkins combined to score eight points in the game.
Wednesday's game marks UVU's final contest against in-state competition and its only non-league fixture against a program that went to the postseason last year. After being selected to the WNIT, Utah won five consecutive games — including four on the road — to reach the tournament championship. There, the Utes were defeated by Drexel in a tough, 46-43 battle.
Up next, the Wolverines can get comfortable at home when they begin a four-game home stand, their longest of the season, on Saturday. West Coast Conference member Santa Clara will be in town that day for a 3 p.m. tipoff at the PE Building. The remainder of the home stand is comprised of contests against Idaho State (Dec. 20), New Orleans (Dec. 28) and the WAC-opener against Bakersfield (Jan. 4).
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.