Women's basketball • Strong rebounding helps Utah put holiday distractions aside.
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It was the night before Christmas break, and Utah's thoughts were full of UC Irvine mostly.
And while the focus of the Ute women was not 100 percent on the Anteaters, there was enough attention paid to deliver a 58-42 victory Thursday in the Huntsman Center.
Utah (9-1) never trailed, was really never threatened and opened up its largest lead, 21 points, midway through the second half. The Utes, though, were not on a full boil.
"For the most part we did a good job defensively," said Utah center Taryn Wicijowski, who finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. "We had a few errors in our discipline that led to some baskets for them.
"It is distracting. 'In 12 hours I get to go home. In 12 hours I get to see my family.' "
Holiday cheer aside, Thursday's nonconference game also had its share of statistical strangeness, the most eye-popping of which happened to be Irvine's shooting.
Between the last 6 minutes, 43 seconds of the first half and first 8:14 of the second, the Anteaters (3-8) missed 23 consecutive shots. UC Irvine managed just four free throws as Utah's lead grew from three points to 42-24.
"For stretches, we were as good as we could be defensively," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. "I'm really pleased with where we are at that end of floor."
The game's flow was not disrupted by foul calls. There were just four called in the opening half, the first with a little more than six minutes to play.
Utah grabbed 56 rebounds, including 15 by Iwalani Rodrigues, to UCI's 24.
Another weird number involved turnovers. UC Irvine forced 20 Utah mistakes while giving the ball away only five times.
"They play zone because they're good at it," Levrets said. "This will be a really good film for us before we play Oregon State. We turned the ball over 20 times and a lot of it was because they're in places we're not used to seeing."
Still, it was a good way to end the first half of the season with the Pac-12 schedule approaching.
"We're starting to realize what we're good at," Wicijowski said.
Storylines Utah 58, UC Irvine 42
R Utah's Taryn Wicijowski and Michelle Plouffe combined for 31 points and 15 rebounds.
• Between the first and second halves, UC Irvine missed 23 consecutive field-goal attempts.