Utah advances to WNIT semifinals
Moraga, Calif. • When Utah first started its run through the Women's National Invitation Tournament, it first felt like a few extra games.
Now, it feels like a tournament.
Two weeks and four victories later three of them coming on the road the Utes are in the semifinals, a confident bunch that feels like wins can come against anyone with good basketball on both ends of the floor.
Saint Mary's on Saturday afternoon proved to be Utah's latest victim on the road to postseason success. A 58-55 win at McKeon Pavilion started in a hostile environment. It ended with the entire team posing with four fingers on a picture that made the Utes' basketball homepage on Facebook.
"This team is so resilient," Utah coach Anthony Levrets told The Tribune following the win. "The one thing we've done this season is play defense. It's been a constant and we've been very good in this tournament because of it."
Utah advances to face Kansas State on Wednesday night in yet another road contest. In order to accomplish this, the Utes followed the familiar formula of jumping on its opponent early and executing down the stretch.
Michelle Plouffe excellent through the entire tournament scored 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Senior guard Iwalani Rodrigues scored 14 points to go along with seven rebounds.
Utah led by as much as 10 points in the first half, before the Gaels came back in the second 20 minutes to make it close.
The key for the Utes with Saint Mary's doubling down on Taryn Wicijowski all game was their shooting from the perimeter. They hit 11 of their 22 3-pointers, making the Gaels pay for selling out to stop the interior game.
"We played an incredibly gritty game today, completely different than the last game we played," Levrets said. "We shot the basketball incredibly well early in the game and then defended unbelievably well down the stretch to finish it out. I couldn't be prouder and happier for our kids."
Utah 58, Saint Mary's 50
R Utah moves on to the WNIT Final Four, where it will face Kansas State on Wednesday night.
• The Utes hold Saint Mary's without a field goal for the final eight minutes.