This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
No one can say Utah and Brigham Young did not anticipate the possibly rough and the unknown seas that now await both women's basketball programs.
The Utes and Cougars appear ready for their first Pac-12 and West Coast Conference games, respectively, thanks to a tough pre-season schedule.
Certainly, Utah (6-4) jumps into the Pac-12 with both feet at 2 p.m. Saturday against Colorado (11-0) in the Huntsman Center. And while there are questions about how strong the league is on the men's side of the court, no such thoughts concern the women.
UCLA is the lone Pac-12 women's team with a sub-.500 preseason record.
Meanwhile, BYU (11-2), winners of 10 straight games, travels to St. Mary's (9-4) for a 2 p.m. WCC opener Saturday. The Cougars then travel to Portland on Monday.
"We have a lot of room to improve," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. "But I also think we've improved faster than I thought."
In typical Judkins fashion, the Cougars boast a balanced attack and hard-working defense. Forward Kim Parker is the lone double-digit scorer at 12.5 points. However, six players average between 9.6 and 7.3 points.
BYU's two losses featured a six-point defeat to Duke and victories against Arizona, Syracuse and Wisconsin.
"It's tough to start conference with two road games, [but] our team is ready right now," said BYU guard Haley Steed, who averages 8.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 6.6 assists.
Utah has yet to record a signature victory this season. The four Ute losses to Michigan, Arkansas, BYU and South Alabama were by a combined 19 points.
Ute sophomore forward Michelle Plouffe has so far enjoyed a breakout season, averaging more than 15 points and nine rebounds, while center Taryn Wicijowski adds 14 points and nearly eight rebounds.
"She just has a complete game," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said about Plouffe. "Every single night, it doesn't matter who we're playing against, she shows up and plays her tail off. One of the things that we're asking her to do is get fouled and get to the free-throw line a little more."
Janita Badon and Iwalani Rodrigues combine for nearly 20 points, while Badon dishes out 5.6 assists.
"We just want to get better this time of year in practice and every game that we play as we're getting closer and closer to conference season," Levrets said. "We can't be satisfied. We need to see improvements in every facet of the game as we move forward."
WSU WOMEN OPEN BIG SKY PLAY
Weber State (2-11), which opened the season with seven consecutive losses, have begun to show slow and steady improvement, including an overtime loss to Wyoming. The Wildcats open the Big Sky Conference schedule Saturday at Sacramento State (5-8).
Amanda Hughes leads a group of six players who average between 10.1 and 7.6 points a game.
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