No. 7 Utah Women’s Basketball Dominate Los Angeles Powerhouses


Julia Chuang

The University of Utah women’s basketball team takes on Idaho at the Jon. M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Nov. 7 2022. (Photo by Julia Chuang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Abbey Thomas and Max Valva


The first half of the No. 7 Utes’ (18-2, 8-2 Pac-12) weekend in the Los Angeles area started with an intense match against USC on Friday. The game saw transfer Alissa Pili wage battle against her former team, which was made all the more iconic when the junior came out on top as Utah’s top scorer. The Utes’ scoring percentage improved massively compared to last weekend’s stumble at Stanford, increasing from a measly 33.9% to a solid 53.4% from the field.

The first quarter started off with USC putting up the first points with a jumper from Destiny Littleton. This was followed up quickly with a three from Kennady McQueen, and Issy Palmer getting her first assist of the match. USC’s Kadi Sissoko and Kayla Williams snapped back with some pressure from the offense, adding a quick three points, but not before a couple of rebounds from Gianna Kneepkens edged Utah out on top. Another three from McQueen closed out the first quarter at 23-14 for the Utes.

Starting the second half at a comfortable lead, Pili broke through in the first 15 seconds to contribute a layup to the Utes. USC was keen to prove they had not run out of gas, but a series of attempts over the following two minutes saw a gain of only 2 points to 16. Nearly halfway through the quarter, Utah seemingly released the floodgates and by the sixth minute were up by 16, 39-23. Pili and Palmer added a layup apiece, followed by a 3-pointer from Dasia Young to close out a dominant second quarter at 49-33.

After such a successful first half for Utah, the team’s total field goal percentage sat at a clean 50%, hampered only by a few missed shots as the team found their footing. The second half would see that number increase all the way to 65%, as USC began to succumb to Utah’s aggressive offense.

Kneepkens opened up the third quarter from the paint with a jumper, pushing the Utes 2 points higher above the Trojans. Two minutes in, Palmer secured an additional two free throws, while USC added a layup and a jumper to bring it to 55-43. Palmer and McQueen both tried their luck at a three, and Pili added another jumper before subbing out. Sophomore Jenna Johnson came through from the paint with a layup to give the Utes their widest score gap of the match at 69-49.

Showing signs of fatigue, USC went into the fourth and final quarter without a score for the first three minutes, before Sissoko achieved a layup. Inês Vieira retaliated with two successful free throws, with Kneepkens doing the same a minute later. A final three-pointer by McQueen, courtesy an assist from Pili, closed out the game at 83-73, in favor of the Utes.

With one successful defeat under their belt, the Utes looked forward to taking down the other half of Southern California on Sunday, the UCLA Bruins, and the Utes came through.

In a neck-and-neck game, the Utes proved to be victorious in beating the Bruins in Salt Lake City by a score of 71-69. With the win, the Utes improve to an 18-2 record overall, and 8-2 in Pac-12 play. Playing at home has benefited Utah greatly, as they are undefeated for the year at Huntsman. A 10-0 start at home marks the best start to the season at home since the 2015-16 season.

Utah’s Pili continued her impressive 2022 campaign by leading the game in scoring for both teams with 23 points. She was also able to grab 9 boards, just one short of a double-double. 

UCLA jumped out to an early 8-0 lead to start the game. It took five minutes for the Utes to score their first points of the game, a 3-pointer from Jenna Johnson. But just after a 9-0 stretch at the end of the first quarter, the Utes were able to even the score 16-16.

Despite keeping the score pretty close in the second, the Utes entered halftime down by three. The Utes came into the second half playing with a spark, as they started the third with a 9-2 run. The Utes were able to use the paint to their advantage during this time period as three different Utes were able to score buckets from down low during the run. UCLA responded with a 13-0 run of their own, which put them up by four at the end of the third quarter.

UCLA never trailed in the fourth until the buzzer sounded. Down by three with 41 seconds left, Pilli made a clutch jump shot from behind the arc to even the score at 69 apiece. The Utes were then able to muster a defensive stop which gave Utah one last chance to win the game. With 0.8 seconds left in the game, Pili was able to find an open lane, score a game-winning layup at the buzzer and give Utah the 71-69 win.

After the big win, the Utes will have to travel to Oregon to face off against the Lady Beavers of Oregon State this upcoming Friday and the Lady Ducks this upcoming Sunday. Both games can be watched on the Pac-12 Network.


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