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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
Utah's Michelle Plouffe is fouled by Justine Hartman as Utah and California play Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014. California won 68-59.
(It is) disappointing to lose the game, but I was proud of our effort after getting pounded pretty good the other night by Stanford. —Utah head coach Anthony Levrets

SALT LAKE CITY — For the second time in the same weekend, the Utah women’s basketball team lost to a ranked Northern California squad Sunday.

The No. 19 California Golden Bears defeated Utah, 68-59, at the Huntsman Center, maintaining their perfect 4-0 record in Pac-12 play while keeping the Utes winless against conference foes.

“(It is) disappointing to lose the game, but I was proud of our effort after getting pounded pretty good the other night by Stanford,” head coach Anthony Levrets said.

After giving up an early lead, Utah responded well, pulling back to within five points at the midpoint and to within three points multiple times in the final minutes.

Levrets was pleased with his team’s ability “to come back in here and compete like this, especially after we got down early to start the game,” he said. “(We had) the resilience to bounce back. We just didn’t have enough to get over the hump — a couple easy layups that didn’t go in that would have probably changed the momentum and the flow of the game.”

Throughout the course of the contest, the Utes exposed the Golden Bears’ press, using the altitude to their advantage.

“We did a really a good job of attacking and executing against the press,” Levrets said. “We got some easy baskets and, at elevation, it’s hard to do that (press) the whole game.”

Ute guard Ciera Dunbar added that the experience against the press will aide the team moving forward.

“I think we handled the press really well, (and) that’s going to be really important going through conference,” she said. “(We have) just got to pick up a couple wins on the road this coming weekend.”

Senior forward Michelle Plouffe came alive in the second half, finishing with 19 points and 14 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season. Plouffe also joined the 1,000-rebound club, becoming just the fourth player to do so with 1,005 career boards.

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Freshman Emily Potter added 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, while Dunbar and Danielle Rodriguez also reached double digits with 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Guard Brittany Boyd led California with 24 points, 16 of which were scored in the second half, and Reshanda Gray added 15.

Utah will travel to play Washington and Washington State this weekend, two games the Utes are looking forward to.

“We’re right there. We were there all game today, just couldn’t pull ahead,” Dunbar said. “It’s taking a little longer than we’re obviously hoping for but we’ll get there. We’re right on the cusp.”

Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.