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Utah Women’s Basketball Doubles Up CSU-Pueblo in First Game of the Season

The 2023-24 season is perhaps the most anticipated season in Utah women’s basketball program history, with the team ranking fifth place nationally.
The+University+of+Utah+women%E2%80%99s+basketball+team+celebrates+during+the+March+Madness+game+versus+the+Princeton+Tigers+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+March+19%2C+2023.
Xiangyao Tang
The University of Utah women’s basketball team celebrates during the March Madness game versus the Princeton Tigers at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on March 19, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

The University of Utah women’s basketball team was back in action for the first time this season on Wednesday. They played an exhibition game at the Huntsman Center against the Colorado State-Pueblo Thunderwolves, winning comfortably 96-44.

Game Recap

The game was pretty smooth sailing as expected. The Utes lead Colorado State-Pueblo 22-15 at the end of the first quarter. They pulled away right at the start of the second quarter and never really looked back. Utah started the second quarter on a blazing 24-0 run, turning it into a 46-15 lead. The Utes hit four 3-pointers during this stretch, helping them get to 11 made threes on the night. Kennady McQueen also scored 7 of her 13 total points during the 24-0 run as well. McQueen made 5 of her 8 field goal attempts on top of recording five rebounds and three assists in a strong all-around performance.

The Utes won the second quarter 34-7 to break the game open. The score at halftime was 56-22 for Utah. It was a steady lead throughout the rest of the game. The Utes ended up winning by the score of 96-44. 

Alissa Pili picked up where she left off last season, scoring 20 points on the night. She made 4 of 7 field goal attempts and shot a perfect 12/12 from the free throw line. She attempted over half of Utah’s 22 free throw attempts. Four other Utes scored in double figures: McQueen, Gianna Kneepkens, Lani White and Inês Vieira. It was an extremely efficient showing for the Utes. As a team, they shot 53.3% from the field, 39.3% from three and 95.5% from the line.

The Season Ahead

The 2023-24 season is perhaps the most anticipated season in Utah women’s basketball program history. The Utes entered the season ranked #5 in the country, only behind defending national champion LSU, UConn, Iowa, and UCLA. Utah are coming off of a 27-5 season where they were Pac-12 regular season co-champions. Utah advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, where they lost a heartbreaker to the LSU Tigers. 

Head coach Lynne Roberts is entering her ninth season at the U with a very well-rounded roster. The headliner is senior forward Alissa Pili, the defending Pac-12 Player of the Year. Pili transferred to the U prior to last season after three seasons with the USC Trojans. She made an instant impact in her first season with the Utes, providing a consistent inside scoring threat. She led the team with 20.7 points per game and shot 42.6% from the 3-point line. Pili was named to the Katrina McClain Award watchlist, awarded to the nation’s best power forward.

Pili is surrounded by a versatile cast of teammates, many of whom have played multiple seasons together at the U. Junior guard Gianna Kneepkens was electric in each of her first two seasons at Utah and is a remarkably efficient scorer. Jenna Johnson, Kennady McQueen and Isabel Palmer rounded out Coach Roberts’s starting lineup Wednesday evening.

The Utes have one more exhibition game, which will be on Oct. 30 against Northwest Nazarene. The season officially starts on Nov. 6 at home against Mississippi Valley State. The Utes then have another home game against South Carolina State before traveling to Waco to face future conference foe Baylor.

 

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@i_dunaway

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About the Contributors
Isaac Dunaway, Sports Writer
Isaac Dunaway is a sports writer for The Daily Utah Chronicle. He started this position in October 2021. He is a sophomore at the University of Utah studying communication with an emphasis in journalism. He is also a proud member of the University of Utah Marching Band. He is a native of Salt Lake City.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

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