When Utah took the court inside Bramlage Coliseum for the WNIT semifinal Wednesday night, the Kansas State women’s basketball team was faced with a challenge it had not yet seen this postseason.
Utah’s inside duo — made up of 6-foot-3 Taryn Wicijowski and 6-4 Michelle Plouffe — put pressure on the Wildcats in the paint like they hadn’t seen since Big 12 play ended almost a month ago.
Wicijowski and Plouffe finished the game with double-doubles and scored a combined 42 points in Wednesday night’s 54-46 overtime win against K-State, most of which came in the first half when Utah outscored the Wildcats in the paint 16-8.
“Going into the game we, didn’t necessarily want to double their post because we were afraid of their 3 ball,” K-State coach Deb Patterson said. “We made a determination at halftime to show two to the post because it seemed like those baskets were coming quick and easy. We did commit a second player the majority of those catches in the second half to the post and I think we did do fairly well with that.”
K-State was able to fix its defensive attack and turn the game around in the second half, allowing Utah score only 13 points.
At times, K-State’s 5-7 senior guard Mariah White was charged with guarding Wicijowski or Plouffe. It was nothing new for White, though, as she’s often been asked to do that this season, given the Cats’ limited numbers and height inside.
“Tonight (Plouffe) was a great post, and to be 5-7, and to even have a chance to put us in games is unbelievable,” Chambers said of White’s defense.
The Wildcats came back from as many 14 points down in the first half to tie the game at 39 in the closing minutes of regulation and send it into overtime.
“As the game went on, I was really impressed with how Kansas State surrounded them, and not only surrounded them, but then made it harder to get the next pass out,” Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. “We were really fortunate to come out of here with a win. We made just enough plays down the stretch.”
Overtime reflected the game’s first half more than it did the second, and by letting Utah’s posts get to the rim, K-State was unable to continue its run in the WNIT.
Wicijowski and Plouffe combined to score 12 of the Utes’ final 15 points in the game.
Plouffe had a game-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, while Wicijowski added 18 points and a game-high 17 boards.
“We just kept running the same stuff, but we made more shots,” Levrets said.
The solid performance form Plouffe came as no surprise, though, as the junior was named an AP All-American and played for the Canadian national basketball team in the 2012 summer Olympics.
“There’s not many things that phase her,” Levrets said. “She’s kind of been through everything and just plays that way every night.”