No. 4 Utah Women’s Basketball Advances to Program’s Highest Ever Ranking


Julia Chuang

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

By Max Valva and Abbey Thomas


Utes Against Washington

The No. 7 ranked Utah Utes played host to the Washington Huskies at the Jon M. Huntsman Center this past Friday. The Utes won in blowout fashion, defeating the Huskies 92-69. 

The Utes started the game on a roll, going on an 8-0 run in the first to put them up 17-9 at the end of the quarter. The run was headlined by two Gianna Kneepkens three-pointers, which set the tone for her play as she finished with 19 points, the leading scorer for both teams. She finished the game 7-12 including five from three-point range. 

The Utes were able to continue their hot streak going into the second quarter. With seven minutes left, the Utes went on an 11-2 run to put them up by double digits for the first point in the contest. With just one second left on the clock before half, Issy Palmer nailed a shot from half-court which put the Utes up 52-35 at the half.

Although it wasn’t pretty, Washington was able to get a little closer at the end but still fell to the Utes 92-69.

“That was a great crowd,” head coach Lynne Roberts told Utah Athletics. “We appreciate everyone that came out, it’s fun to see it build and the energy was great tonight. Washington was coming off of beating Stanford so they definitely had our team’s attention and I thought we came out really well and just kind of wore them down. Obviously we shot the ball really well. They were doing a really good job at defending inside and it was hard to score around the bucket. If you’re able to shut down the inside, we have people that can shoot. It was a great win, anytime you can win by 23 in this league, I don’t care if you’re home or away it’s a great night.”

Utes Against Washington State

Following Friday’s impressive display against the University of Washington, the Utah women’s basketball team had one more match up against the Washington State Cougars on Super Bowl Sunday. Seeking to shut out the Washington schools for a second time this season, the Utes were looking for just one more win — but the team ended up coming away with something a little more meaningful.

To start the first quarter, Washington State was the first on the board with a couple of good jumpers from the paint. Not wanting to allow the Cougars to keep any kind of lead, Alissa Pili and Kennady McQueen came in with a three-pointer each, with Palmer assisting both shots. Just before the four-minute mark, McQueen secured another three, prompting the Cougars to call a quick timeout with the score sitting at 8-15 for the Utes. The next two minutes remained in Utah control, with Kneepkens offering a layup and free throw to bring it up to 18. A few free throws notched the Cougars up two more, before the first quarter finally settled at a close 19-20.

Heading into the second quarter, Washington State didn’t let off the gas as the Utes started to struggle to control the scoreboard. A layup by Johnson got things started in the first minute, but a rebound from the Cougars allowed Bella Murekatete to add a layup, getting within a point of Utah. The two teams went back and forth for over three minutes, with neither team escaping with more than two points over the other. A three from Johnson pushed the Utes up a little further, before Washington State drained two threes in a matter of thirty seconds to tie the score up at 29-29. Junior Dasia Young helped salvage the end of the quarter with two three pointers of her own, and Pili stepped in with a couple layups to nudge Utah ahead of WSU to finish the first half 32-41.

For Utah, halftime was welcomed and offered a much needed regroup — but starting the third quarter, Washington State showed it couldn’t end fast enough. Two layups from the Cougars got things into play, once again getting them within five of the Utes. In response, Johnson fired off a layup and yet another three pointer to push Utah to 46, before the team went scoreless for two minutes. Young found an opening for another three, with Kneepkens offering a layup and free throw to bring it to 56. Washington started to lag further behind, and managed a series of frees before the quarter came to an end at 45-58.

Having finally found their footing at the end of the third quarter, the Utes entered the final quarter with more confidence to complete their win. The Cougars once again kicked off scoring with a jumper, though Dasia Young quickly followed with a layup and McQueen came through with a three. The score hit a stalemate around the seventh minute mark, and the ball bounced between the teams with neither one securing a basket. McQueen broke the silence with another three, and Washington State bounced back with several free throws before things went scoreless again for another two minutes. Johnson and Young scored two points each from the paint, and Palmer closed out the show with a free throw to bring it to a final 59-73 victory for Utah.

Having sealed the team’s 22nd win — with only two losses — and already attaining multiple team bests this season, the Utes came away from Sunday’s win with even bigger news. The team jumped from being ranked seventh in the polls all the way to fourth — the highest rank the Utah women’s basketball team has ever achieved. With only four matches left in regular season play and the NCAA tournament looming in the near future, the Utes are navigating uncharted territory as they hope to secure a high-profile seed for the competition, while also attempting to enjoy their recent success. 


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