Utah basketball: Ute women upset Washington
Seattle • After a season in which early season hopes were never fulfilled, Utah's women's basketball team came to Seattle for the Pac-12 Tournament humbled.
The Utes hoped, as star player Michelle Plouffe put it, to play well enough that they could feel better about themselves.
The Utes (12-18) upset the home town team Thursday 65-53 at KeyArena. Utah advances to play third-seeded Oregon State Friday at 9:30 p.m. in a game televised by the Pac-12 networks.
This is the second time the Utes have advanced to the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Last year the Utes beat Arizona then lost to UCLA in the second round.
No surprise that it was Plouffe who led the Utes to victory.
On a team thinned by injuries and lacking a winning chemistry, Plouffe has been the steady force for the Utes, entering Thursday's game averaging 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds.
She has been the epitome of a a successful program in coach Anthony Levrets' description. Levrets, who commended his star for her work ethic a week ago, couldn't have asked for more out of the forward on Thursday.
Plouffe created turnovers, nabbed rebounds, swatted balls away, got the inside shots and added a three-pointer.
She finished with 30 points and nine rebounds while Emily Potter had 12 points and 15 rebounds.
"I didn't want this to be my last game," Plouffe said.
Plouffe's effort was remarkably similar to the ones she'd given against Washington in the previous meetings, both of which were Utah losses.
The difference on Thursday was Utah's defense and the help Plouffe received from her teammates.
Washington stars Jazmine Davis and Kelsey Plum had 18 and 20 points, respectively, but combined for just 9-of-30 shooting from the field. The Huskies were just 5-of-23 from three-point distance.
"It was a very complete team defensive effort," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. "I couldn't be happier for the players."
Plouffe gave credit to her teammates for the way they hustled, creating chaos that Washington just couldn't overcome.
"They were getting the ball, knocking down shots and moving the ball really well," she said.
Danielle Rodriguez, still sporting a black eye she suffered against UCLA in the regular season finale, finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
She had one of the biggest highlight plays too, stuffing Washington guard Jazmine Davis as she drove to the basket with less than three minutes to play.
Guard Ciera Dunbar was also instrumental. Even though she was in foul trouble most of the night, Dunbar delivered a three-pointer with six minutes to go that put the Utes up 58-49 and led the defensive effort.
Plum grew visibly frustrated as she was just 2-of-8 from three-point land.
"We knew we couldn't give her uncontested shots," Levrets said. "We did a great job of being in her space. You aren't going to stop a kid like that, but we contained her and made sure she earned everything."
Levrets said it would be a difficult challenge to beat Oregon State, but liked the way his team responded Thursday and was hopeful the Utes could put together a run.
"We have a lot of respect for them but we think we can compete with them," he said.
Utes get a big win
In short: The Utes lost to Washington twice in the regular season, but won the one that mattered most as they upset sixth-seeded Washington to advance in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Key moment: With under six minutes to go, Ciera Dunbar made a three-pointer that put the Utes ahead 58-49.
Key stat: Washington shot just 14-of-55 compared to the Utes' 24-of-63 effort from the field.
At Key Arena, Seattle
Colorado (9) vs. Stanford (1), 1 p.m.
USC (5) vs. Arizona State (4), 3:30 p.m.
Washington State (7) vs. Cal (2), 7 p.m.
Utah (11) vs. Oregon State (3), 9:30 p.m.