Anthony Levrets was asked to sum up Utah's 81-70 win over Utah Valley on Wednesday night. He shifted, inhaled and said about the only nice thing he could muster concerning the performance of his team.
"We won the game," Levrets said. "We're thrilled that we won the game."
As for positives in front of 649 at the Huntsman Center, the above sentence may have been the only one. For much of what was supposed to be a lopsided matchup, the Utes struggled with a team that entered the night with seven consecutive losses. The game was tied at halftime, it was still in doubt in the final minute and Utah had such a tough time defending Katie Kuklok, she scored almost half of UVU's points (34).
Levrets entered the season with high hopes for his team and its ability to compete in the Pac-12. Wednesday night's win pushes the Utes to 4-4 on the year, but it's clear that a young team fitting around the talents of Michelle Plouffe has a long way to go.
"We have to start putting our games together," Plouffe said. "We played very little defense in the first half, and we didn't play as hard as we needed to. We have the ability to be a good team, but we have to start playing better than we did tonight."
Plouffe, Emily Potter and the ability to shoot the ball turned out to be Utah's saving grace against Utah Valley. Plouffe, a senior forward, scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. She was dominant in the second half and controlled the paint.
Potter, a freshman center, flirted with a triple-double, scoring 16 points, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking six shots. She did all of this in 27 minutes before fouling out. As for shooting the ball, the Utes made 12 3-pointers on the night.
With UVU playing exclusively zone, Utah's shooters stepped up and knocked down open looks.
"Michelle's an All-American for a reason," Levrets said. "She can do so many things out there to help us. I thought her defense was a big key to start the second half. She guarded Kuklok and took her out of the game for a while. She came back and made some baskets, but Michelle was very good tonight."
Freshman guard Malia Nawahine and sophomore point guard Danielle Rodriguez each scored 11 points, with Rodriguez adding six assists and four rebounds. Utah didn't truly pull away until building an 11 point lead late in the game. But Utah Valley rallied with a barrage of threes to pull within 75-70 with 31.1 seconds remaining.
From there, the Utes made their free throws to put separation between them and their opponents.
Utah 81,Utah Valley 70
O Utah improves to 4-4 on the season
Michelle Plouffe has 21 points and 13 rebounds. Emily Potter scores 16 points, grabs nine rebounds and blocks six shots for the Utes.