Women's college basketball: Utah starts fast, buries Michigan
Utah faced its first major test of the women's basketball season Friday night at the Huntsman Center.
The Utes were ready.
Michelle Plouffe scored 20 points, Taryn Wicijowski added 17 and Iwalani Rodrigues handed out a career-high eight assists as Utah rolled to a lopsided 59-40 victory over Michigan.
The Utes improved to 3-0 by jumping to a 15-0 lead just over five minutes into the game.
Utah made 10 of its first 11 shots while Michigan converted only two of its first 16 possessions.
After falling behind by 15, the Wolverines never got closer than nine.
" I thought we would start well," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. "I thought, if they played us man, they would have some matchup problems with us. ... But I never dreamed of 15-0."
While the Utes executed well on offense, their defense was the key to burying Michigan, which shot 32 percent in the first half.
"We played a really good basketball team," said Plouffe, "and our main focus was on the defensive end. I think we played our best defensive game this year. That started everything."
The Utes stopped Michigan on its first eight possessions and built their 15-0 lead with 14:40 remaining in the first half.
"I think the hallmark of our program is we guard," Levrets said. "Our players know it, if you ask them. ... We preach [it] every day, and they preach to each other."
Wicijowski's basket eventually gave Utah a 22-4 lead before the Wolverines tried to creep back into contention. Brenae Harris started an 8-0 run that cut the Utes' advantage to 24-15 with 4:18 left.
Utah managed only two points during an 81/2-minute stretch, when it made only one of 12 shots and turned the ball over twice.
Just in time, however, Rodrigues buried a pair of 3-pointers and freshman Danielle Rodriquez added another.
Over the final 3:55, Utah finished on an 11-2 run and took a 35-17 lead at halftime.
"I was hesitant in the beginning," Rodrigues said. "... But coach and my teammates kept telling me to shoot. So I did."
In the second half, Michigan got as close as 15 when Jenny Ryan's basket with 15:31 remaining made it 43-38.
Rodrigues countered with another 3-pointer, however, and the Utes' smothering defense allowed them to pull away.
R Michelle Plouffe scored a team-high 20 points and Utah defeated Michigan, 59-40.
• The Utes jumped to a 15-0 lead over the Wolverines and upped their record to 3-0.