Utah Women’s Basketball’s Magical Run Comes to an End in Round of 32


Rachel Rydalch

Pep talk from team captains to prepare the Utah Utes women’s basketball team to take on Lipscomb University at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Nov. 10, 2021. (Photo by Rachel Rydalch | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brian Preece, Sports Writer


To tell the story of the University of Utah women’s basketball team in 2022, we must first answer the question, “What is an underdog?”

Un-der-dog noun — A competitor who is thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest

When the 2021-22 season began, there were some in the college basketball world that might have thought of the Utes as an underdog in the Pac-12, a conference that is home to the defending national champion Stanford, the runner-up Arizona, and a series of other highly regarded programs.

Sure, the Utes hadn’t won a game in the Pac-12 postseason tournament since 2019, hadn’t advanced to the NCAA tournament since 2011 or won a game in the NCAA tournament since 2009. The Utes had won just 10 conference games in the past two seasons combined.

Perhaps the underdog label was justified. No longer is that true.

Back-to-back 100+ point games for the first time since 1978-79. A 13-5 non-conference record. Holding a double-digit second-half lead over No. 2 ranked Stanford before running out of gas late.

At some point, the underdog label has to go, right?

Perhaps it was after the Utes advanced to their first wins over Cal, Washington State and the same Oregon team that had left them disappointed just one week earlier with a loss in their final regular-season game of the season.

Maybe it was when Utah again held a second-half lead over the Cardinal before going cold in the fourth quarter.

Could it have been the first-round utter dismantling of 10-seed Arkansas on Friday afternoon?

No matter the case, the Utes have certainly shed the label of the underdog as they headed into a matchup with 2-seed and host Texas in the round of 32 on Sunday, March 20.

Utah Utes 56 – Texas Longhorns 78

Utah’s magical season came to an end Sunday afternoon as the attrition of injuries finally caught up to an undermanned and undersized Ute team in the round of 32, losing to Texas.

Freshman Gianna Kneepkens put the Utes on the board first when Dru Gylten found her off a back-cut for the layup.

The Longhorns enjoyed a great offensive first quarter, making seven consecutive shots at one point while building a 15-9 lead.

Three Kennady McQueen triples kept Utah within striking distance despite Texas’ hot shooting.

Utah trailed the Longhorns 19-17 at the end of one.

Texas continued their torrid shooting in the second quarter, using every missed shot as a chance to run and exploit Utah athletically. That same athleticism forced the Utes to scramble offensively and made them look uncharacteristically uncomfortable.

McQueen was the lone bright spot for Utah offensively with 11 first-half points and a team-leading two rebounds.

A pair of Longhorns broke double figures in the first half. Aaliyah Moore led all scorers with 14 points and Joanne Allen-Taylor chipped in 10.

Texas finished the first half shooting a cool 71.4 percent on 20-28 from the field. They led 44-30 at the half.

Texas opened the second half with a huge spurt, running the lead up over 20 points and taking some of the life out of a Utah team that had finally run up against a wall they couldn’t scale.

The massive Longhorn frontline stymied the Utes at the hoop and their quick-handed guards harassed the Utes into turnover after turnover late in the third. Texas would outscore Utah 20-12 in the quarter.

Early in the final quarter, Texas increased their lead to 68-42. The 26-point deficit marked the second-largest hole the Utes had fallen into this season.

McQueen finished with a team-high 18 points and 4 rebounds as Utah finished with a season-low 20 boards as a team. Jenna Johnson also scored in double figures with 12 points. Gylten finished the final game in her storied Utah career with five assists.

Moore’s 21 points led the Longhorns as they advance to the Sweet 16.


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