Seattle • The Utes were licking their chops when Arizona popped up as their first-round opponent in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament opener.
They couldn’t wait for a chance to get revenge. Each time the Utes had played the Wildcats, it was on Arizona’s terms. The Utes couldn’t figure out the Arizona press defense and turned the ball over with regularity. Utah had committed 37 total turnovers in its first two meetings against Arizona.
Thursday was a bit different.
Utah was ready for the press, and it showed. The result was a record-setting performance.
On Thursday? Five. Utah set a Pac-12 Conference Tournament record for fewest turnovers committed in a tournament game. The previous was six, set by Washington against USC in 2007.
“We always talked about turnovers,” said junior forward Taryn Wicijowski. “If we don’t turn the ball over and we play good ‘D,’ we should have a really good chance to win.”
Junior Michelle Plouffe said handling the Arizona press allowed the Utes to be successful on the offensive end.
“We were able to play our offense,” she said.
Attached to the hip
Senior Iwalani Rodrigues said earlier this week she badly wanted a chance to guard Arizona senior Davellyn Whyte. She got her wish and turned in an impressive defensive performance. While Whyte finished with 23 points, she shot 6 of 18 from the field as Rodrigues rounded screen after screen chasing the Wildcat.
“She had to work for everything she got,” said Utah coach Anthony Levrets.
Bring on the Bruins
The last time Utah played No. 14 UCLA, the Utes were not at full strength. Wicijowski missed a portion of the Pac-12 season with a knee injury, but will get her shot at the Bruins on Friday afternoon.
“The first time we played them,” Levrets said, “we were kind of a mess.”
Utah’s coach said the Bruins are a “big, strong, athletic” group that can shoot the ball well and harass teams in a variety of ways defensively.
“Other than that,” Levrets joked, “they’re pretty easy to beat.”