Women's basketball • No. 7 Cal defeats Utah in Pac-12 opener.
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Utah did many things right against visiting California, including a tenacious defensive effort that kept the Bears 22 points below their season average.
However, part of basketball is also making shots, and that's ultimately why No. 7 Cal escaped the Huntsman Center with a 55-50 Pac-12 victory Friday night.
"We did get things going defensively, and that's where it starts with us," said Utah forward Michelle Plouffe after scoring a team-high 16 points. "Unfortunately, we weren't executing [offensively] as well as we could have."
Cal (11-1, 1-0 Pac-12) forgot to bring its offense out of the halftime locker room, going nearly 6½ minutes without scoring. The Utes (9-3, 0-1), down by 12 at intermission, missed a boatload of chances and managed only six points.
With 7 minutes, 16 seconds to play in the second half, the Bears had converted just 21 percent of their shots. Utah wasn't much better, but still pulled to within 47-43 with 2:33 to play.
"I'm really proud of my team and the way we competed," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. "We're going to have to get a little bit better offensively.
"We missed some easy ones, but you've got to give Cal a lot of credit."
Cal point guard Brittany Boyd was the key to Utah's offensive woes. Boyd's importance to the Bears went beyond her 11 points. Her constant pressure, as well as that of her team, made life miserable for Danielle Rodriguez or Ciera Dunbar or whoever brought the ball upcourt for Utah.
In the first half especially, Boyd's defense led to 10 points off of Utah turnovers.
Utah's failure to score consistently from the outside allowed the Bears to double- and triple-team Taryn Wicijowski. The Ute post, who finished with 11 points, didn't score her first basket until midway through the second half.
Two events allowed Cal to push out to a large lead in the first half. With Utah trailing by one, Plouffe picked up her second foul midway through the half and sat the final 9:18. In addition, Cal guard Afure Jemerigbe scored 11 points in the first half, more than four points above her average.
"We could have won this game, definitely. It showed how hard we can compete with these teams," said Plouffe, looking toward Sunday and No. 4 Stanford. "It's not going to get any easier."
Cal 55, Utah 50
O In the second half, California plays the first 6:23 and the last 6:10 without making a field goal.
• California's Layshia Clarendon scores a game-high 18 points with three assists and two steals.
• Utah closes the gap to three points with four-tenths of a second to play.