The Utah women’s basketball team looked rusty.
The Utes struggled to find their legs, missing layups on one end and giving up easy baskets to an underszied Houston Baptist team on the other end of the Huntsman Center floor Saturday.
Utah coach Anthony Levrets hardly expected anything different.
“I’ve been coaching for 16 years in college, and I’ve never seen a good first half after finals,” he said. “They just don’t exist.”
Levrets gave his players three days off from practice for exams this week. But after nearly flunking the game’s first half, the Utes found their stride in the second, blowing out the Huskies 71-33.
Houston Baptist (2-9) cut the Utes’ lead to 18-15 with 6:20 left in the first period. But Utah went on 20-3 run stretching over the two halves to put the game out of reach.
The Utes were led by Michelle Plouffe’s 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Junior center Taryn Wicijowski added 16 points and seven rebounds of her own.
Houston Baptist guard Devyn Weymouth scored a game-high 17 points, but scoring opportunites were few and far between for the Huskies.
Utah dominated the game, capitalizing on 21 Husky turnovers and outrebounding the Texas team 45-35.
“I was really proud of how we went into halftime and came back out with so much more energy defensively,” Levrets said.
Freshman point guard Danielle Rodriguez scored 10 points and notched three assists for the Utes, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“Teams tend to double [Wicijowski and Plouffe] and leave me open,” she said. “Sometimes I hesitate on the shots. I’m just trying to shoot the wide-open shots now. If I have it, I’m going to shoot it.”
Saturday’s win should give the Utes (8-1) plenty of confidence heading into next week’s game against UC Irvine.
“I think it brings [our confidence] back,” Rodriguez said. “I know after the BYU game it was rough. ... Having a game like this, it brings our tempo back up. It’s a win. We go into UC Irvine with our heads up.”
Women’s basketball Utah 71, Houston Baptist 33
R The Utes put together a 20-3 run over two halves in a blowout win.
• Utah center Taryn Wicijowski ties her career high for the second game in row, scoring 16 points.
• Houston Baptist commits 21 turnovers, 17 of them in the first half.