Utah scrapes past Wildcats

S-Woops2 Colby Patterson
Senior forward Michelle Plouffe charges down the court at the game against the Arizona Wildcats Sunday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Senior forward Michelle Plouffe charges down the court at the game against the Arizona
Wildcats Sunday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Senior forward Michelle Plouffe summed it all up in one sentence: “It definitely was not the prettiest win.”

The Utes (9-10, 2-6) outlasted a late rally from Arizona (4-15, 0-8) and came out with the win yesterday, 60-57.

What started as a low-scoring game turned into yet another last-minute finish for Utah. Both teams had very slow starts, but the second half gave the fans a show.

Down three with six minutes remaining, Utah’s freshman forward Malia Nawahine hit a three-pointer that started a 15-6 run. A block by Plouffe in the final seconds all but secured the victory for the Utes.

Head coach Anthony Levrets believed the team played with low energy, but is proud of his team for pushing until the end and getting the win.

“Very proud of our kids,” Levrets said. “Sometimes you are physically tired and sometimes you are emotionally tired and I think we were both physically and emotionally tired tonight. To have the guts to pull it out after getting down, it was a big win. I am really proud of our kids.”

Midway through the second half, Utah’s defense came alive, getting nine blocks compared to Arizona’s zero. The Utes were led by sophomore guard Danielle Rodriguez with a game-high four blocks and freshman Emily Potter contributing three blocks along with 15 points.

On a night where not all her shots were falling, it was Plouffe’s leadership and clutch factor that led Utah to victory. Despite her below average shooting — 4-for-12 from the field — Plouffe had her ninth double-double performance of the season with game-high stats of 20 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Plouffe also became the school’s second all-time leading rebounder with 1,045 in her career.

Levrets is confident enough in his forward that even after an off shooting day, the Utes will continue to go to Plouffe in every game. After missing a few weeks earlier in the season, Plouffe is back into her normal rhythm and has had a big impact on games this season.

“As long as she is wearing a Utah uniform we are going to throw her the basketball,” Levrets said. “The thing about a great player is she was not great offensively as far as shooting the ball, as it was not her best performance. But she figures out ways to impact the game like when she had the biggest block at the biggest time at the end of the game. Big defensive rebounds and made free throws.”

Plouffe acknowledged that it was not the cleanest game, but hopes that it’ll provide the team with an upward motion for the rest of their season.

“A win is a win,” Plouffe said. “We did not have a lot of momentum in this game, but [that final drive] gave us some momentum. We are just going to move on from this and move forward.”

b.barlow@chronicle.utah.edu