Despite COVID Scare Utah Women’s Basketball To Play in Pac-12 Tournament



University of Utah Utes Women’s Basketball Team Wing Niyah Becker (14) dribbles with the ball during an NCAA Basketball match vs. the Eastern Washington Eagles at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday, Nov. 18, 2019. (Photo by Abu Asib | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Eric Jensen, Sports Writer


The University of Utah women’s basketball team will play in the Pac-12 tournament after a COVID-19 case shut down the program over the weekend, canceling senior day and Utah’s final home game against Colorado.

According to a statement from the athletics department to the Salt Lake Tribune, after contact tracing and testing the Utes will head to Las Vegas to play Washington State at 6 p.m. MST on Wednesday, March 3. But, according to the report, Utah will be missing players.

Those players will obviously not be identified until the game starts, so who Utah will or will not have for this game is a relative mystery until tipoff. That being said, the fact that the Utes are playing in the tournament at all is somewhat of a minor miracle after the cancellation last week.

The program didn’t shut down, and that, in turn, gave the Utes the opportunity to play in Las Vegas. The tournament is Utah’s only remaining chance of making the big dance, and they enter as the 10th seed in the conference.

If the Utes were to advance through round one, their half of the bracket is a landmine. Just to get to the semi-finals Utah would have to beat some combination of Washington State, Arizona, UCLA, Washington, and/or Colorado. Of those teams, Utah has only beaten Washington in a matchup way back in early January, 84-63.

To even look that far in the future though, the Utes must get past over-achieving Washington State, who was picked to finish dead last in the conference in preseason polls.

In both matchups, the Cougars’ sisters Charlisse and Krystal Leger-Walker both had huge games against the Utes.

Charlisse Leger-Walker scored 23 and 22 points in the matchups with the Utes, while her sister distributed massive assist numbers putting up 8 and 11 assists in the games.

The sisters form a dynamic duo that has been hard to stop for every Pac-12 team this year. Krystal is averaging just under 5 assists per game, and Charlisse is scoring 19.4 points per game. Together they have taken the Cougars to the seventh seed after the team was projected to be the worst team in the conference.

The Utes, on the other hand, also possess talented scoring weapons, though who will be available for the team on Wednesday remains a mystery. Brynna Maxwell leads the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and is followed by Kemery Martín (11 PPG) and Niyah Becker (6.2 PPG). Dru Gylten, who averaged 8.1 points per game, is out for the remainder of the season with an injury.

The Utes have issues with scoring the basketball with only two scorers averaging more than 10 points per game. It makes for a tough matchup against the Cougars on Wednesday. The game will be played at 6 p.m. MST and can be seen on the Pac-12 networks and listened to on ESPN 700.

It’s a minor miracle the Utes were able to play in this tournament, they now have a chance to seize the moment and become the ultimate underdog story. The Utes will be under-manned going into a tough matchup, but anything is possible.


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