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Rachel Messer held tight to a $10 bill during Tuesday night's postgame interview, gently massaging it with both hands as she talked about Utah's narrow 62-55 win over Northern Colorado at the Huntsman Center.
For Messer, it was more than fitting, because for every bit of the 27 minutes she was on the floor, her jump shot was money.
The Utes senior guard was the difference in what became an uncomfortably tight game for Utah. She scored a career-high 18 points. She went 6 for 8 from the field and hit all four of her 3-point attempts. Whenever a shot was needed, Messer was there to provide it.
"I thought my teammates did a great job of setting me up for open looks," Messer said. "I was able to get my feet set, and knock down open jumpers."
That's a good thing for the Utes. Without Messer and Michelle Plouffe, Utah may have suffered its first loss of the season against an inferior opponent. As it stands, the Utes are winners of four consecutive games to start the year.
In a game where Northern Colorado did everything it could to take away the post presence of Taryn Wicijowski, Utah was able to counter that with 11 made 3-pointers. Plouffe scored all 14 of her points in the second half, and notched her 1,000th career point with two free throws late in the contest.
And with Wicijowski saddled with a four-point, five-turnover night, freshman point guard Danielle Rodriguez stepped up large with 12 points, four rebounds and three assists. Utah's offense was unbalanced for most of the game. Indeed, the Utes made just six field goals from inside the arc.
"We are going to see that a lot this season," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. "Teams are going to want to take away the inside game. Tonight, Northern Colorado just collapsed whenever Taryn got the ball. So in those scenarios, we are going to have to be able to make some shots. Last year, we weren't good in that category. It's encouraging that we were able to do that tonight."
Storylines Utah 62, N. Colorado 55
R Rachel Messer scores a career-high 18 points.
• Utah wins its fourth straight game to start the season.
• Michelle Plouffe scores her 1,000th career point.