Seattle • For much of the first half, the Utah offense struggled to put points on the scoreboard at Key Arena. In fact, the Utes missed shot after shot after shot early on. Their first basket didn't come until the 14:50 mark.
But one player in particular, a sophomore who returned to her hometown of Seattle, helped keep the Utes from sinking. Cheyenne Wilson, a guard who started many games last year for coach Anthony Levrets and Utah, came off the bench and hit timely jumpers. She was 4 of 8 from the field the best of any Ute against UCLA and scored 10 points. Her 17-foot jump shot gave Utah its first lead of the game, 37-35, with less than 10 minutes remaining.
"She's continued to improve and continued to work," Levrets said, "and she can score."
Utah's coach added that the team has four seniors to replace next year and Wilson is atop of the list of candidates to vie for a starting spot or work her way in as a key member of the rotation.
"Hopefully we'll have a great offseason and see more of her playing like she did today in the future," Levrets said.
Senior Iwalani Rodrigues said Wilson is a close friend, who has the ability to become a premier player for the Utes, adding that she simply needs to believe in her abilities.
"I think she needs to come with that mindset every game," Rodrigues said. "If she comes out every game like that with the mentality of 'I want to win,' she'll be great."
For the four
As Utah expects to be invited to the NIT after being eliminated in the Pac-12 Conference tournament, the Utes want to keep playing for their four seniors: Rodrigues, Rachel Messer, Chelsea Bridgewater and Rita Sitivi.
"They're a special group of girls," said junior forward Michelle Plouffe, who finished with 10 points and 14 rebounds against UCLA, her eighth double-double of the year.
Levrets said he hasn't had a group as enjoyable as this year's Utes, which will help with the added motivation to keep playing.
"When we started the year, I thought we had a chance to do something special," he said. "It's probably ended a little bit short of where we all thought and hoped we would end the season â¦ I love coaching them. I love being around them. It's hard to be disheartened when you walk into the room and there's 13 kids that you just love being around."