SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah State women’s basketball saw its historic season come to an end in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) with a 69-58 loss to Utah Thursday at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. With the loss, the Aggies end the season 21-10. This is the first time ever that USU has reached the 20-win plateu. The Utes improve to 16-15 and advance to the second round to take on Pac-12 rival Washington. This is the second-straight season that USU has reached postseason, advancing to the second round of the WNIT last season. Junior guard Pualei Furtado made her first start in the blue and white uniform. She ended the game with eight points, three rebounds, two steals and two assists. The Aggies were led by 14 points from senior forward Ashlee Brown who ended her USU career with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. Fellow senior Brooke Jackson closed out her Aggie career with nine points and eight rebounds. Utah got a double-double from Taryn Wicijowski who was one of five Utes in double figures with 15 points and 11 boards. Michelle Plouffe also had 15 points, with Iwalani Rodrigues scoring 13. Cheyenne Wilson (10) and Rachel Messer (11) rounded out the Ute quintet in double figures. USU got off to a slow start before a Devyn Christensen lay up tied the score at 2-2 with 16:54 left in the first half. The Aggies scored six-straight points to take 6-2 advantage over the Utes. After jumping out to an 11-4 lead, Utah bounced back with five-straight points to cut the lead to 11-9. The Aggies responded with four-straight points to open up a 15-9 lead. An old-fashioned three-point play by Furtado gave USU an 18-11 lead. A wide-open three by Jackson gave the Aggies their first double-digit lead of the half, 23-13, with 4:39 on the clock. After a Brown basket, Utah State took its biggest lead of the half 29-15. The Utes fought back at the end of the half to cut the lead to 29-24. A lay up by freshman center Franny Vaaulu with 51 seconds remaining in the half gave USU a 31-24 lead as the teams entered the locker room. In the first half, Utah State was led by 10 points from Brown who also added three assists and a rebound. Christensen scored six first-half points to go along with two rebounds and two steals. Jackson had five points and five boards in the first 20 minutes. Utah was led by 10 points from Wicijowski who added five rebounds and three blocks for the Utes. Both Wilson and Rita Sitivi scored five for Utah in the first half. The Utes came out strong in the second half, erasing the Aggie lead and tying the score 36-36 with 15:50 remaining in the game. Utah scored 12 of the first 17 points of the second half to tie the score. Utah took its first lead since it opened the game 2-0 after a basket by Plouffe to give the Utes a 38-36 lead with 15:16 on the clock. After the Aggies cut the lead to 41-40, Utah fought right back to take a 47-40 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the game. A three by Messer gave Utah a 12-point lead, 52-40, with 8:22 remaining. USU answered with a three by junior guard Jenna Johnson to cut the lead to 52-43. A lay up by Plouffe opened up a 62-47 lead for Utah with 3:45 left to help seal the win for the Utes. From that point on, USU was not able to get the lead down to single digits. The Utes used a stellar second half to take control of the game, out-scoring the Aggies 45-27 in the second stanza. Utah State finished the game, shooting 20-of-66 (30.3 percent) from the floor. The Aggies were 4-of-14 from three-point range (28.6 percent), while shooting 14-of-15 (93.3 percent) from the charity stripe. Utah was 26-of-57 (45.6 percent) from the field, going 6-of-21 from three (28.6 percent). The Utes were 11-of-17 (64.7 percent) from the free throw line. Utah State says good bye to six seniors: Ashlee Brown, Brooke Jackson, Maddy Plunkett, Banna Diop, Reyneisha Mays and Chelsea Burns. Brown was the first Aggie to earn WAC Newcomer and Defensive Player of the Year honors during her Aggie career. Fans can follow USU women’s basketball at http://twitter.com/UTAHSTATEofmind and Utah State athletics at http://twitter.com/USUAthletics. ? ? -USU-
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