Utah upsets TCU to take MWC crown
Plouffe scores eight in OT to pace Utes past Horned Frogs
LAS VEGAS -- Freshman Michelle Plouffe scored eight of her 24 points in overtime, sparking Utah to a 52-47 upset of TCU Saturday in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
The fifth-seeded Utes (18-16) earned the league's automatic NCAA bid by winning four games in five days after finishing just 7-9 in the MWC during the regular season.
Plouffe, whose buzzer-beater eliminated top-seeded BYU in the semifinals, hit a key 3-pointer with 1:14 left in regulation before Briesha Wynn's drive to the basket with 9.2 seconds left tied it at 42.
In overtime, Plouffe sank a turnaround jumper to give the Utes the lead for good at 46-45 with 1:52 left, then sank a pair of free throws for a three-point lead. In the final minute, she hit an 18-foot jumper from the top of the circle and capped the scoring with two more free throws with 14 seconds left.
Plouffe, the league's freshman of the year, also pulled down 11 rebounds, eight off the defensive glass, and Iwalani Rodrigues added 13 points.
Second-seeded TCU (22-10) had won eight of nine but was playing in just its second game in the league's staggered bracket that gives the top two seeds byes until the semifinals. The rust showed when the Horned Frogs fell behind 16-2 after 9 minutes.
Fatigue set in for the Utes, however, and they finally relinquished their lead on Emily Carter's free throw with 3:51 left in regulation that put TCU ahead 38-37.
This was the last MWC tournament for the Utes, who join the Pac-12 next season along with Colorado.
Rachel Rentschler's 3-pointer capped an 8-0 spurt that brought TCU to 24-19, but Rodrigues hit 3-point buzzer-beaters from each corner as the Utes took a 30-20 lead into the locker room.
The Utes may have been the underdog with a less experienced roster, but this was their third consecutive title game appearance. They won the title in 2009, then fell to San Diego State in overtime last year.
The Utes, who have won this tournament four times, became the first fifth seed ever to cut down the nets.
Delisa Gross and Rentschler each scored 10 points for TCU, which was playing in its first Mountain West championship game.