SALT LAKE CITY — With 8:33 remaining in its first Pac-12 Conference game of the season, the Utah women's basketball team had a 52-44 lead. A debut victory seemed certain.
But as the buzzer sounded, Utah head coach Anthony Levrets was shaking his head in disbelief.
Colorado scored 14 unanswered points in the remaining time and thwarted Utah any chance of redemption, handing them a 58-52 loss on Saturday at the Huntsman Center.
"This is what we're going to face week in and week out now," Utah center Taryn Wicijowski said. "Grinding to the end of games. It's something we're welcoming but we're just not used to it yet. We're pretty tired."
The Utes did have scoring opportunities down the final stretch but they were unable to convert — something Levrets attributed to a tiring first half and nine offensive rebounds for the undefeated Colorado Buffaloes.
"It turned into really long possessions for them offensively and we spent a long time on the defensive end of the floor," Levrets said. "It takes your legs out of you. That's what we want to do to other people but that was a little reversed today."
Utah jumped out to an early 7-2 lead in the first half but experienced a scoring drought minutes later as Colorado went on a 10-0 run. The lead would change four more times throughout the well-matched contest, with the Utes unable to hold on.
"I thought we did a good job getting the ball inside to Taryn (Wicijowksi)," Levrets said. "But I thought there were a couple possessions where we weren't patient enough. We put the ball on the floor too soon when we were about to get Taryn or Plouffe inside."
When the Utes were able to feed Wicijowski, she delivered. The talented center earned yet another double-double, leading with 16 points and pulling down 11 rebounds in the narrow loss.
Although the Buffaloes' hounding defense hindered Utah's outside shooting, Michelle Plouffe and Iwalani Rodrigues were able to combine for an additional 26 points for the Utes, putting in 13 each.
Colorado's speedy guards, Julie Seabrook and Brittany Wilson, were too much for the Utah defense at times as they combined for 30 points in the win. The Utes shot just 14-percent from beyond the 3-point arc, going 2-14, compared to Colorado's 47-percent.
Despite the loss, Coach Levrets believes in a bright future.
"It (the loss) will be turned into a positive," he said. "This is a long season. We'll learn from it and get better."
Colorado remains unbeaten, while Utah falls to an overall record of 7-5. Utah returns to action with a pair of Pac-12 road games next weekend, playing Washington State (Thursday, Jan. 5) and Washington (Saturday, Jan. 7).