They’ve suffered through injury and tragedy. They’ve suffered through the beginning of the Pac-12 with five consecutive defeats.
Most teams would’ve folded tent for the rest of the season. The Utah women are fighting back and digging out.
Wednesday’s 58-55 win over Colorado before 855 at the Huntsman Center is the third in four games for the Utes. Anthony Levrets has his team defending better than it has all season. The shots that were once not falling are going in, and the confidence is on a high.
"We did the same thing last year," Levrets said. "This is not the greatest way to start the conference, but we do have some experience with it. There’s no panic on this team. It’s a resilient bunch, and it’s a team that’s never going to quit on itself."
The run started at Washington State, an important road win for Utah when it badly needed something good to happen. And even though the Utes lost to Arizona State at home, it was a narrow defeat that showed Levrets and his team that competing with the best of the league is not out of the question.
On Wednesday night, the formula was familiar: Stingy defense, ball control offense and enough made shots on the perimeter to counter Michelle Plouffe’s work in the paint.
For the Utes, that worked beautifully. Pluffe - the senior all-conference candidate - scored a team-high 14 points, and added eight rebounds and four steals. Utah made seven 3-pointers, while holding the Buffaloes to 0-7 behind the arc. The defense forced 16 turnovers and surrendered just eight assists.
"The team is starting to understand each other," Levrets said. "The are starting to gel and figure out chemistry with one another. That’s a great thing."
For all that Plouffe did, Cheyenne Wilson played a great game, scoring 11 points, dropping seven assists and making big plays shooting the basketball. Playing small forward, her assist total is an eye-opening statistic. She penetrated Colorado’s zone with the dribble, found open teammates and they delivered.
The Utes move to 3-6 in league play and even their record at 10-10 overall. For a team that missed Plouffe for a stretch and was stripped of Taryn Wicijowski early, they have acquitted themselves over the last two weeks.
"I feel we’re starting to play much better defensively," Wilson said. "That’s leading to more wins and that’s what we need."
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