Danielle Rodriguez’s black eye should have been Washington’s first sign.
Utah can withstand a hit.
The Utes entered the Pac-12 women’s tournament opening-round game having lost eight of their final nine games compared to the Huskies’ splashy win against No. 18 California on the road to end the regular season. But Rodriguez, with a shiner on her right eye, had enough sight to send passes into the post, where the Utes often converted to help pummel Washington 65-53 Thursday night in the opening-round game at KeyArena.
Michelle Plouffe (30 points) and Emily Potter (12 points) were the benefactors of Rodriguez’s assists. The trio combined for 39 rebounds.
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“I’m in complete disarray,” said Washington guard Jazmine Davis. “It’s kind of like you’re in shock and denial at what just happened.”
Within 51-49 after a three-pointer by Kelsey Plum with 9:06 remaining in the game, Washington didn’t hit another field goal until a jumper by Aminah Williams with 1:12 left.
It was too late. Utes guard Ciera Dunbar had already provided a big blow to UW’s spirit, a deep three-pointer at the top of the key with 5:29 remaining to give the Utes a 58-49 lead.
The KeyArena rims were set ablaze during Washington State’s 107-100 win in the first of the Pac-12 tournament evening matchups Thursday.
Utah’s stingy defense helped Washington put out the fire 30 minutes later.
The Huskies feature one of the Pac-12’s best backcourts but Plum bounced dribbles off her foot and shot 3 for 14 from the field on Thursday.
Take Davis out of the mix and UW was a combined 4 for 20 from the field (20 percent) in the opening half.
Washington got to the foul line enough to stay in the game, and the Huskies were down 31-28 at the break.
Plum finished with 20 points to lead Washington. Davis added 18 and Williams had 15 rebounds.
“I’m mad at myself, I didn’t play well tonight,” Plum said. “We always make that run — hit some threes, loosen it up. We didn’t get that and Michelle Plouffe, she had like 30 points. She’s a great player.”
The regular-season matchups between UW (17-13) and Utah (12-18) were decided by one point apiece, with Washington sweeping the Utes but needing overtime to win at Alaska Airlines Arena in January.
Washington anticipated using the Pac-12 tournament to make a final push for an NCAA bid. The Huskies were listed as being on the bubble by some prediction sites.
Now the Huskies will likely play in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the third consecutive season. Washington might have to play on the road because Alaska Airlines Arena is a host site for the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067
On Twitter @JaydaEvans