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Utah Women’s Basketball Wins Season Opener After Sluggish Start

The game did not get off to the start the Utes envisioned, but were able to recover for a dominant second half.
Xiangyao Tang
Utah guard Kennady McQueen (24) versus the Mississippi State Delta Devils at Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 06, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


The #5 ranked University of Utah women’s basketball team defeated the Mississippi State Delta Devils 104-45 in their season opener. Five Utes scored in double figures to help Utah pull away after a slow start to the game.

The game did not get off to the start the Utes envisioned. Both teams traded baskets throughout the first quarter. Utah ran a full-court press on many possessions, and although it did create a lot of turnovers and offensive opportunities for the Utes, it also let the Delta Devils score some easy baskets when they broke through the defense. It was an incredibly efficient quarter for Mississippi Valley State, as they shot 68.75% from the field.

The Utes also showed out offensively in the first quarter. They got off to a slow start from the three-point line but shot 50% overall in the quarter and did a great job drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line. Utah shot 12 free throws in the first quarter, making 8 of them. Alissa Pili alone accounted for half of these free throws, making 5 of 6 free throws in the first quarter. Still, the Utes trailed the Delta Devils 24-22 at the end of quarter one.

Utah made adjustments between the first and second quarters and completely dominated the rest of the way. The Utes kept producing well on offense throughout, and the defense shut down Mississippi Valley State from the second quarter beyond. After scoring 24 points in the first quarter, the Delta Devils scored 21 points total the rest of the game. 

“Kind of a typical first game where we’re just not quite sharp and polished in all areas, but other than that first quarter I thought we were pretty good. The first quarter just looked like we weren’t firing on all cylinders yet,” Head Coach Lynne Roberts said after the game. “It’s a long season and you’ve got to play through all of that.” 

The Utes outscored the Delta Devils 29-6 in the second quarter, including a run of 24 unanswered points. This gave Utah a commanding 51-30 lead heading into halftime. Pili was utterly dominant in the first half, scoring all 26 of her points in the first half. She shot a perfect 7 of 7 from the field, including making both of her three-point attempts. Pili also got to the free throw line 12 times, making 10 of her attempts.

The second half was all smooth sailing for the Utes. Mississippi Valley State did not have an answer on either side of the ball. Gianna Kneepkens got off to a hot start in the third quarter, starting the scoring with a three-pointer assisted by Isabel Palmer. Kneepkens then converted a three-point play when she was fouled on a layup. She scored 6 of her 18 total points in a little over 30 seconds to begin the second half.

Utah outscored Mississippi Valley State 53-15 in the second half to win the game 104-45. Five Utes scored in double figures: Pili and Kneepkens as previously mentioned, Lani White with 15, and Palmer and Jenna Johnson with 10 each. Kneepkens nearly recorded a triple-double with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists as well in an incredible season opener.

The Utes are back in action on Thursday against South Carolina State, with tipoff at 7 p.m.


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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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