Third time could be the charm

S-Woops-cropped Colby Patterson
Freshman Devri Owens pushes through Washington defense in a game last month. Photo by Erin Burns.

Freshman Devri Owens pushes through Washington defense in a game last month. Photo by Erin Burns.

As the 2014 campaign enters the postseason stage, the Utes’ women’s basketball team is hoping to end the season with a bang.

After struggling through its conference schedule, Utah (11-18, 4-14) will be the 11th-seeded team in this week’s Pac-12 Conference Tournament in Seattle. The Utes will face off against the sixth-seeded Washington Huskies tonight in the first round.

Utah head coach Anthony Levrets is looking forward to having one more go before the season comes to an end, so he isn’t treating the tournament differently from any other game.

“It is just the same [mindset],” Levrets said. “It has been a long, frustrating season with tons of ups and downs and more downs than ups. But March is supposed to be a special time in college basketball, so you take what has been the best of what you have done, lean on that and try to have our best performance.”

The Utes enter the week with a 1-2 all-time record at the Pac-12 Tournament. Their lone tournament victory came in 2013 when they beat Arizona 66-48 in the first round.

As always, Utah will be looking to senior Michelle Plouffe to lead the charge. Over the season, Plouffe has become the school’s all-time leading rebounder and is fourth in school history in points scored.

Since the conference tournament is a do-or-die situation, Plouffe wants to make some major noise against Washington in what could be her final college game.

“Definitely a game that we can win,” Plouffe said. “Hopefully the game will give us some confidence. We just want to go and compete for however long we are there for. Hopefully we can at least get one win and finish feeling a little bit better about ourselves for this season.”

The Utes and Huskies have met twice already this season. Washington won both contests by a combined total of two points. In the first matchup, the teams went into overtime in Seattle. After a layup from Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Kelsey Plum with only a minute to go, the Huskies escaped with a 53-52 win.

Round two took place in Salt Lake City. The squads were tied at 60 with under four minutes to play before Washington pulled away. The Utes made it interesting in the final seconds but fell 67-66.

Utah is 5-3 in games decided by five points or less this season. Thursday’s winner will move on to the conference quarterfinals and face off against the No. 3 seed Oregon State. The top four teams received byes in the first round.

“We will try to have our best performance against Washington,” Levrets said. “They are a team that we really felt like we had a chance to beat both times that we played them. We will go up there and get ready and see if we cannot give them a big run.”

Tip time is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. MST. The game will appear on the Pac-12 Networks.

b.barlow@chronicle.utah.edu