SALT LAKE CITY — Four Utes scored in double digits as Utah picked up yet another large- margin victory at home.
The Utes defeated Utah Valley, 82-51, on Wednesday in the Huntsman Center as they earned their third straight victory and their largest scoring output of the season. Utah has won five of its last six games heading into Pac-12 play on Saturday.
"Very happy with our effort," Utah head coach Anthony Levrets said. "Utah Valley is a scrappy group of kids and they competed really, really hard. I thought for the most part we did a nice job defending them and taking away some of the ways that they normally get scores."
Although the win was the result of an all-around team effort, Iwalani Rodrigues proved to be the ignition in the Utes' high-powered attack.
Rodrigues led the Utah offense, sinking six from beyond the 3-point arc and finishing with a game-high 26 points. She pulled down four rebounds and dished out five assists in the win — a performance making her Utah's player of the game.
"Anthony (Utah head coach) told me to practice my shot because last year it was really on point," Rodrigues said. "I've been practicing it and I tried not to think about a lot of stuff. I was thinking a lot before I started shooting in past games, so this game I just relaxed and played and it fell into the basket."
Not only was Rodrigues able to find her offensive rhythm, she proved capable of both stepping up as a crucial defender and taking charge at the point guard position.
"She's really turned into a complete player," head coach Anthony Levrets said. "Last year she only played the two. This year she has to guard the best wing and play the one when Janita (Badon) isn't in the game. Her defense has come miles and she's our defensive stopper. She did a great job of running the team tonight when Janita wasn't in there."
Badon displayed an exceptional performance as well with 12 points and seven assists from her spot at the point. Taryn Wicijowski earned her second double-double of the season for the Utes with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Michelle Plouffe picked up 17 points in the win.
Utah came out blazing in the first half, enjoying a 16-3 run through the first five minutes. The Utes scored a season-high 48 points in the half, led by Plouffe's 15 points.
Utah Valley struggled to make up the early deficit despite an all-around better showing in the second half. They kept the lead at just over 20 points until the Utes ran away with it in the final five minutes.
Rodrigues sunk two 3-pointers as Utah outscored Utah Valley 12-4 and pushed the final lead to 31 points.
The victory marked the third straight win over 30 points for Utah, and they look to continue improving as conference play gets underway.
"We're just trying to get better in everything we do right now," Levrets said. "You have the preseason and you try to get as good at your base as you possibly can. That has been our goal and intent — to get better in all the areas that we feel we need to be good at to win. Now, it's time to rely on that base and prepare for the teams that are coming here, and focus on how we can take away what they do."
Utah will open Pac-12 Conference play with Colorado on Saturday in the Huntsman Center.
"I'm pleased with where we are on both ends of the floor, and now everyone is 0-0," Levrets said. "It's an exciting time of year."
"We're excited to play in a conference tournament. Everybody wants to get better and we're all working harder. Everyone is on the same page and I think that will help us a lot. When everyone is on the same page and you have the same goals in mind, no one can stop you."
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