Utes excel with added fan energy

Woops Colby Patterson
Danielle Rodriguez drives to the hoop against Arizona’s defense at the Huntsman Center last Sunday. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Danielle Rodriguez drives to the hoop against Arizona’s defense at the Huntsman Center last Sunday. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Utah will open up another week of league play when it welcomes Colorado to the Huntsman Center on Wednesday night. After the teams square off in Salt Lake City, the Utes will then travel to Boulder the following Sunday to play the Buffaloes in their house. The back-to-back game schedule is common with rival teams within the Pac-12, as it alternates from week-to-week.

“It is interesting,” said Utah head coach Anthony Levrets. “The first game feels like a regular conference game. In the second game, it feels like a dog fight. You know each other so well, and it is hard to run what you do offensively because both teams will take away what each other does.”

Both Utah (9-10, 2-6) and Colorado (12-7, 2-6) had good starts to the season before conference play started. Colorado began the 2013-14 campaign ranked in the top 25 in the national rankings but recently fell out after a 4-game slide to start this month. The Buffaloes are coming off a last-second defeat against Arizona State, a game which ended in similar fashion to Utah’s loss to the Sun Devils. Colorado is averaging 71 points per game and is second in the conference in scoring defense.

The Utes have won two of their last three games and look to keep the momentum rolling against the Buffaloes.

“We have come close to beating a lot of good teams this year,” said freshman guard Devri Owens. “We have the potential to be really good. Everything has to be on point. Against the Pac-12, you cannot just be good, you have to play great. As long as we know we can win and play like we can win, we will see happen from there.”

 

Change in the atmosphere

Over the last couple of games, Utah officials placed signs in the Huntsman Center encouraging fans to sit closer to the court. They read, “In order to create a more competitive atmosphere for our Utes, please select a seat below Row 20. Be Loud. Be Proud. Go Utes!” Leverts noticed the difference, especially in last Friday’s loss to Arizona State.

“It was nice,” Levrets said. “It was a good basketball game. It was just unfortunate in the way that it ended and very frustrating, but it made it all the more sweeter for our kids in the next one to get a win. We were emotionally drained and physically drained on Sunday, but we managed to gut out a big win. It is fun to have people in the gym, and it is fun to have people excited about what you are doing. Anytime there is more energy in the gym, it certainly, certainly makes it easier and more fun to play.”

The combined attendance for Utah’s last two games was 1,920, making both games well-above the average attendance thus far in the season.

 

Plouffe potential all-time rebounder

Records are meant to be broken, and senior forward Michelle Plouffe is on track to do just that. In Utah’s last game against Arizona, Plouffe collected 13 rebounds, putting her at second in school history for most rebounds in a career.

“She just has got a nose for the ball,” Levrets said. “Part of rebounding is having great vision. She has the great ability to step to people and block them out and find the ball and go get it, which is why she has as many rebounds she does.”

Plouffe is now at 1,045 rebounds in her career and only needs 62 more to capture the all-time record held by Anne Handy, a record that has stood since 1985. In order for Plouffe to break the record, she will need to average 6.2 rebounds per game for the rest of the season, considerably lower than her current average of 10.6.

b.barlow@chronicle.utah.edu