Utes drop game to UCLA on Senior Night

S-Woops Colby Patterson
Michelle Plouffe looks for a path to the basket at Sunday’s game at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Erin Burns.

Michelle Plouffe looks for a path to the basket at Sunday’s game at the Huntsman Center. Photo by Erin Burns.

Utah started off on the right foot in its regular season finale, but that hot start ultimately fizzled in a loss to UCLA, 62-52.

On Senior Night for the Utes, the Bruins were able to make their shots count when the Utes couldn’t. After Utah went up by seven at the beginning of the first half, UCLA pulled back into the game, eventually taking the lead with shooting from the field. In retrospect, poor shooting in the second half was all too familiar for Utah head coach Anthony Levrets.

“I feel like a broken record,” Levrets said. “I am proud of how we competed, but we just did not make enough shots. We had really good looks in transition during the stretch when we were up seven, but did not finish plays and then [UCLA] finished plays. At the end, we just did not make enough baskets and it got cold around the perimeter.”

Heading into halftime with a two-point lead, Utah was looking to extend that lead coming out of the locker room. UCLA, though, had other plans. Nirra Fields for the Bruins scored 17 of her 22 points in the second half, 10 of which came from the free throw line. In the final stretch of the second half, Fields also helped UCLA break away from a tie at 43 apiece, leading the Bruins on a 19-9 run.

Leading the way for Utah was senior Michelle Plouffe who finished with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists. Plouffe shot 7-for-16 from the field, including a bucket in the last few seconds of the first half that gave Utah its halftime lead. Despite her individual efforts in her final game in the Huntsman, Plouffe was disappointed in not pulling out the win.

“I thought that we had this game,” Plouffe said. “Going into halftime, we felt pretty good, but we have not been able to close out games and this was just another case of that I think.”

Joining Plouffe as players who will be leaving when the season is over are Ciera Dunbar and Ariel Reynolds. Dunbar put up four points and six rebounds and Reynolds finished with two points and a board. All three players were honored at the game for their contributions to the program.

Other notable performances for Utah came from freshman forward Emily Potter, who scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Junior guard Cheyenne Wilson also contributed eight points, including two three-pointers, and mustered up four rebounds.

Utah now begins to prepare for the Pac-12 tournament in Seattle this weekend, where the Utes will face off with Washington on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. The team is grateful that they still have at least one game remaining, but wished that some games this season would have ended differently. The loss against UCLA has made them more aware of how far they fell from meeting their preseason expectations.

“It’s tough,” Plouffe said. “Especially coming off of last year’s postseason run. We felt pretty good. [But] people went down and stuff happened but we were all just waiting for it to come together. I think we were just kind of waiting instead of making it happen. So it did not really happen and now it is the end.”

b.barlow@chronicle.utah.edu