Not too long ago, it dawned on Iwalani Rodrigues that time was running out on her college basketball career. It was time to put the pedal down and have fun.
The Utah guard embraced the philosophy this weekend in a pair of blowout victories, including Sunday’s 66-40 Pac-12 triumph over Oregon State in the Huntsman Center.
Rodrigues, who has played in the shadow of a couple of more publicized teammates, scored 18 points, dished off for six assists and grabbed six rebounds. Her offense was especially helpful early as the Utes found it difficult to find a cohesive offense throughout much of the first half.
Fortunately for Utah (13-10, 4-8 Pac-12), the Beavers found it nearly impossible to find the hoop as the Utes held OSU scoreless for nearly the first 10 minutes of the opening half. Eventually, the Utes found their offensive footing.
Bigger Oregon State (9-15, 3-9), which wound up shooting 30 percent from the floor, never did. The Beavers trailed by as many as 29 points.
“We had one day of prep,” Rodrigues said. “Yesterday, we had a long three hours walking through and going over what they did. We just came out really prepared and guarded them extremely well tonight.”
After its slow start, Utah connected on nearly 50 percent of its attempts as nine players reached the scoring column, led by Rodrigues. In two games, including a 20-point win against Oregon on Friday, Rodrigues scored 32 points, with 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
“Quite often, when you are a senior and toward the end of your career, special things can happen,” Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. “She’s trying to soak up everything she can. She’s a really talented player that has taken sort of a back seat over her career. I don’t expect to see her in the back seat for the rest of the year.”
Michelle Plouffe added 14 points and 14 rebounds to the Utah cause.
But the Utes won on the defensive end. Ute center Taryn Wicijowski may have only scored six points with three rebounds, but her ability to keep OSU’s taller players off the block was enormous.
“We were exceptional at the defensive end of the floor,” said Levrets, admittedly concerned early about his team’s offensive struggles. “But we hung in there and continued to defend no matter what was going on on the offensive end. It was the best we’ve defended in quite some time.”
• Utah holds Oregon State scoreless the opening nine minutes, 39 seconds of the first half.
• Utah guard Iwalani Rodrigues scores 18 points, including four 3-point baskets, with six assists.
• The Utes limit Oregon State to just nine points through nearly 16 minutes of the second half.