Women’s basketball: Utes conquer Cougars with last-second lay-up

s-Woops copy Colby Patterson
Michelle Plouffe rises for a shot over the Cal Golden Bears’ defense at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Brent Uberty.

Michelle Plouffe rises for a shot over the Cal Golden Bears’ defense
at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Brent Uberty.

With its previous two games coming down to the wire, Utah found itself in a similar situation over the weekend.

Senior forward Michelle Plouffe put in a layup with 2.4 seconds left on the clock to give the Utes their first conference win over Washington State in dramatic fashion, 59-57. The loss for the Cougars was their first of the season in conference play.

“We showed some resiliency and toughness today,” Plouffe said. “We made plays when it mattered, when it counted. We got the W and now have to move on from it. We have a lot of things to work on, but that’s a good thing.”

Utah (8-9, 1-5), down 51-44 in the second half, used a late 15-6 run to close out the game and give Plouffe the opportunity to put the final points on the scoreboard.

Plouffe scored in double digits for the 14th time this season, finishing the game with 17 points — a tie for the game-high with teammate Emily Potter. Plouffe also recorded six rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals in the win. Potter also contributed a great deal in addition to her points by registering her third double-double of the season, grabbing 10 rebounds.

“Potter has been a huge presence for us inside,” Plouffe said. “She’s someone who other teams must be aware of. She’s been playing really well.”

Down by seven points late in the second half, Cheyenne Wilson jumpstarted the Utes’ run with a three-point shot. After a few back-to-back scoring plays, a Plouffe layup tied up the game for the eighth and final time at 57 apiece. With only nine seconds remaining, Danielle Rodriguez inbounded a pass for Plouffe to put in her final layup and the game-winning bucket.

Shooting the ball well was a big reason Utah came out of Pullman with a win. The Utes shot nearly 48 percent from the field, including 4-9 from downtown.

“We kept trying to shoot the ball with confidence,” Potter said. “We know we are a good shooting team, but we have been struggling a little bit. We kept competing and playing for each other, especially on the defensive end. [The defense] were playing really good. It finally all came together and we were more poised at the end of the game.”

With basketball being a game of making runs, Utah is hoping this victory will be the start of another winning streak.

In December, the Utes rode a five-game winning streak that ended at the start of conference play. They went on to lose 5 straight games against Pac-12 foes. Utah is looking to avoid the losing streak this time by harnessing the momentum gained from the win on Sunday.

“I am just really, really happy for our team, our players, our coaches, everybody,” said head coach Anthony Levrets. “You go through the hard times like this, with what we have been through, you need some positive rewards here. It feels good to get out of there with a win and hopefully get a little momentum to get on another streak.”

b.barlow@chronicle.utah.edu