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Utah, Utah State women's basketball: Utes knock off Utah State, stay unbeaten

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah women’s basketball team maintained its perfect record with a victory over instate rival Utah State, 92-64, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Tuesday evening.

Contributions from 12 different players paced the Utes, who improved to 6-0 on the young season. The last time Utah started a season with six consecutive wins was in 2000-'01, when it went on to start 11-0 and ultimately reach the NCAA Sweet 16.

“We just love to play, and I think we play really good together,” junior Michelle Plouffe said of the hot start. “Our chemistry on the court and off the court is just top notch. It’s the best it’s been since I’ve been here, and it just shows out there.”

Tuesday's game started out back-and-forth, and Utah State (2-4) pulled to within two, 12-10, with 14:31 remaining in the first half. That was as close as the game would get, however, as the Utes went on a 27-4 run over the next 12 minutes, building up a 25-point lead two minutes before halftime.

“That was all on the defensive end. It always starts there,” Plouffe said. “We got steal after steal and rebounds and they just led to fast-break layups and good shots.”

The Utes totaled eight steals, five of which were by Iwalani Rodrigues, and had 43 total rebounds, 34 of which were on the defensive end. Utah finished with 22 points off turnovers and 42 points in the paint.

Utah, which ranked fourth in the Pac-12 with 14.8 assists per game heading into Tuesday’s matchup, dished out 27 assists and made 36-of-57 shots from the floor.

Utah’s Big Three — Taryn Wicijowski, Plouffe, and Rodrigues — combined for 30 of the Utes’ 41 first-half points, and they finished with 21, 19, and 15 points, respectively. Freshman Paige Crozon also reached double digits with 13 points off the bench, including a perfect 3-for-3 performance from behind the 3-point line.

On the defensive end, Utah held the Aggies to just 37.7-percent shooting from the floor and 14 total free-throw attempts, all of which were in the second half.

Rodrigues was given the task of defending Utah State’s top offensive weapon in Devyn Christensen, one of the nation’s top scorers.

“Unbelievable,” said Ute coach Anthony Levrets when asked about Rodrigues’ defensive effort against Christensen. “That was a key to the game. That kid is the second-leading scorer in the country and we wanted to make her earn everything she got — and she had to earn them all.”

Christensen totaled 18 points and Jenna Johnson added 12 for the Aggies. Makenlee Williams, a Syracuse High graduate, was a perfect 2 for 2 from behind the arc with six points and three rebounds.

With the victory, Utah improves to 30-1 all time against the Aggies. The instate rivals did not meet in the regular season last year, but the Utes defeated Utah State in the first round of the WNIT.

The Utes will next play on each of the next three Saturdays, beginning with a visit to Hawaii this weekend. They will return to host BYU on Dec. 8, and then host Houston Baptist on Dec. 15. Both home games will tip off at 3 p.m.

Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: