Women’s basketball: Despite promising fight, Utes fall to No. 16 Cal 68-59

Cal+defenders+block+senior+forward+Michelle+Plouffe+Sunday+afternoon+at+the+Huntsman+Center.+The+Utes+lost+68+-+59.+Photo+by+Brent+Uberty.

Brent Uberty

Cal defenders block senior forward Michelle Plouffe Sunday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. The Utes lost 68 – 59. Photo by Brent Uberty.

Cal defenders block senior forward Michelle Plouffe Sunday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. The Utes lost 68 - 59. Photo by Brent Uberty.
Cal defenders block senior forward Michelle Plouffe Sunday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. The Utes lost 68 – 59. Photo by Brent Uberty.
What seemed to be an inevitable blowout ended up turning into a good game.

After a furious comeback from an early 13-point deficit, Utah lost to No. 16 Cal, 68-59. The Utes (7-8, 0-4) had a poor start out of the gate when Cal (12-3, 4-0) started early with a full court press. This led to poor passing by Utah as well as some missed easy layups. Despite the efforts to make it a close game, the Golden Bears drove down the court to stay out of reach from the Utes to get the win.

“It is disappointing to lose a game like that,” said Utah head coach Anthony Levrets. “I was really proud of our effort. After getting pounded, to come back in here and compete like this, especially after we got down early at the start of the game. We just did not have enough to get over the hump and missed some easy layups that would have changed the momentum of the game.”

After allowing a Cal layup in the first half, the ensuing inbound pass was intercepted by the Bears’ All-Conference guard Brittany Boyd who put it back up for a quick score, which ignited an 8-0 run. In addition to that, Utah’s senior forward Michelle Plouffe had three of her passes picked off early to give Cal more scoring opportunities. The Utes gave up 19 points off of turnovers.

Despite Utah giving up two 9-0 runs later in the first half, the Utes decided to at least make a game out of it. Utah countered the Golden Bear’s ferocious defense by playing a bit of their own, getting three blocks towards the end of the first half to keep the game from getting out of hand. The team also found some openings in the press coverage to force Cal to play their regular defense.

“We have worked a ton out of press attack,” Levrets said. “First possession we sort of inbounded it to Boyd and she put it in. Not really the way we wanted to start but we recovered from there and did a really good job at attacking and executing against the press. After we got some easy baskets, and it got to them. We did a good job at getting our motion calls we just did not do a good enough job to get enough baskets.”

Plouffe registered her seventh double-double on the season with a 19-point, 14-rebound game along with four assists and a block. On the night Plouffe became only the fourth player in school history to have 1,000 rebounds in a career. She is currently at 1,005.

Utah’s junior guard Ciera Dunbar had a season best 12 points to go along with three rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal to help the Utes with their comeback. Freshman forward Emily Potter chipped in 11 points, 7 rebounds and three blocks on the night.

Dunbar thinks that going through the suffocating press defense against Cal will help them throughout the rest of conference play. She acknowledged the hard play of her team, and was happy with the resilience, but also that the team has a ways to go.

“We are right there,” Dunbar said. “We were there all game today we just could not pull ahead. It is just taking a little longer than what we are hoping for. We will get there, we are just right on the cusp.”

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