SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women’s basketball team suffered just its second loss of the season Saturday afternoon, but it was a heartbreaker.
The Utes lost to North Dakota, 62-56, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in the first meeting between the two schools.
“Credit to North Dakota, they had a really good game plan,” head coach Anthony Levrets said afterward. “(It is) the same one that has given us trouble against Northern Colorado, against Irvine, against BYU, and now against them.”
Although the Utes entered the game leading the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting at 37.9 percent, the team shot just 6.3 percent from long range Saturday. It shot 33.8 percent from the floor and had more turnovers (10) than assists (eight).
“We have got to figure it out,” Levrets continued. “We can’t be 1 for 16 from 3. Our bigs’ numbers aren’t very good percentage-wise, but a lot of that has to do with how many people they have playing around them. Every catch there’s two or three or four people surrounding them. We’ve got to get them better shots and other people to knock down shots.”
After tying the game 39-39 midway through the second half, Utah had a scoring drought of nearly five minutes while North Dakota pulled ahead by 10 points. The Utes pulled back within four points with 15 seconds remaining, but could never muster enough momentum to get back into the game.
“We just missed so many easy shots early,” Levrets said. “It’s been a pattern for us that we get really good shots but don’t finish them. I think we missed 11 or 12 shots in the paint today. We can’t do that and win.”
Iwalani Rodrigues led the team with a season-high 23 points and eight rebounds while Taryn Wicijowski added 17 points and six rebounds. Michelle Plouffe had a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.
North Dakota was led by the play of Madi Buck, who had 19 points, and Emily Evers, who had 10.
Utah fell to 9-2, while North Dakota, which is currently without a nickname, improved to 5-6.
The Utes will next host eighth-ranked California in their Pac-12 opener Friday at 6 p.m. Games against top-ranked Stanford and 23rd-ranked Colorado will take place the following Sunday and Tuesday, respectively.
“To play the top teams in the nation, that’s exciting,” Rodrigues said of the Utes’ upcoming schedule. “You’ve got to want to come to play. And I feel like when we’re playing really good teams, we come out ready to play.”
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org