The Utah women's basketball team is frustrated.
After completing a promising pre-conference run, the Utes have lost five straight games, four of them against Pac-12 opponents, including their second consecutive loss to No. 23 Colorado, 56-43, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Sunday afternoon.
"We shoot it well in practice and then we get in a game and can't buy a basket," guard Rachel Messer said afterward.
The Utes (9-6, 0-4) entered conference play with the third best field goal percentage in the Pac-12. However, the team has quickly fallen off the radar with performances like the one on Sunday. Utah shot 26.3 percent for the game and hit just five field goals in the entire second half.
"We've just got to figure out how to get confidence in ourselves again, and know that we're going to knock down shots," Messer said. "Otherwise (teams) are going to play defenses like this the rest of the year."
Each of Utah's past five opponents and BYU, the Utes' only other loss, have centered their defenses inside the paint, effectively restricting Utah's leading scorers Michelle Plouffe and Taryn Wicijowski to few catches and even fewer open shots.
"Taryn is very good inside, but when she has to play around two, three, and four people every catch, it's hard for her to be explosive," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. "Everybody has big people in this league, 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5. If someone is doubling, if someone is making her slow her move down just enough, those big people can bother her shots."
Wicijowski finished the game with 16 points, just three rebounds, and was 40 percent from the floor with most of her shots coming from inside the paint. Plouffe, who plays both inside and outside, scored 15 points and grabbed seven boards, but shot just 28.6 percent with one 3-pointer.
"The only fix for (opposing defenses crowing the key), the only cure for that, is when that thing (the ball) comes outside, like it did in the first half, we've got to knock down shots," Levrets continued.
The Utes were able to move the ball inside-and-out with slightly better efficiency in the first half against Colorado, but were unable to score when they had the opportunities. Utah hit just 1-of-11 3-point-attempts in the first half and then just 2-of-11 in the second half.
"The thing that is most disappointing is we felt, especially early on in the season, like we were a really good basketball team. For some reason or another, offensively we have just been struggling to make shots," Levrets said, noting that his players are shooting well in practice even though it has not carried over to the game.
"The most disappointed I am is for them. These kids are devastated right now about how they are playing. We've got to figure out how to get them in a positive frame of mind as this (season) continues."
Colorado (13-2, 2-2) was led by Jen Reese, with 11 points, and Arielle Roberson, with 10 points, along with contributions from seven other players.
Utah will be back on the court Friday when it hosts Arizona (10-5 2-2), its first unranked opponent in two weeks, in a 7 p.m. start. The Utes will then play Arizona State (10-6, 2-2) on Sunday in a 3 p.m. tip off.
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