Michelle Plouffe scored 24 points including four critical free throws in overtime as Utah defeated Kansas State 54-46 in the semifinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament before 2,750 Wednesday night at Bramlage Coliseum.
Kansas State which entered the game 13-0 all-time in the WNIT at Bramlage got off to a slow start making just two field goals in the game’s first 12 minutes as the Utes raced out to a 21-7 lead. K-State cut the deficit to 26-17 by halftime but still shot just 22 percent from the floor for the half. In the second half, the Wildcats turned up the heat on defense and forced Utah to miss shots that were falling for them in the first half but it was still difficult to rally since K-State was still ice cold from the field.
Finally, the Wildcats made their move. Trailing 35-26 with nine and a half minutes remaining in regulation K-State scrapped out a 13-4 run to send the game into overtime. Brittany Chambers, playing in what turned out to be the final game of her stellar career nearly won the game for the Wildcats but missed a layup with seven second left in regulation. With the game tied at 41-41 early in the extra session, the Utes used the run that would send them to the title game thanks to a Plouffe jumper and a three point bucket by Rachel Messer to stretch the lead to five points. From there Utah made eight consecutive free throws as K-State could only draw as close as four points the rest of the way.
Chambers who was held to her lowest point total of the tournament finished with 16 points while Haley Texada and Chantay Caron had 11 points apiece. The Wildcats who had been averaging 11 three-pointers a game were a dismal three of 27 from behind the arc. Utah (23-13) won away from home for the fourth time in the WNIT and will have to play one more road game on Saturday for the Championship in Philadelphia against Drexel. The Dragons defeated Florida 67-57 in the other semifinal earlier Wednesday evening.
Kansas State finishes the season with a record of 19-18.
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