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Utah Women’s Basketball Splits Preseason WNIT Games

After a dominant win over South Carolina State last Thursday night, the Utes dropped a tough game to the No. 21 Baylor Bears on Tuesday.
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Xiangyao Tang
Utah guard Gianna Kneepkens (5) versus the South Carolina State Bulldogs at Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 09, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

The No. 4 University of Utah women’s basketball team played two games as part of the preseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament. After a dominant win over South Carolina State last Thursday night, the Utes dropped a tough game to the No. 21 Baylor Bears on Tuesday.

South Carolina State

Utah hosted the South Carolina State Bulldogs at the Huntsman Center on Thursday evening, winning convincingly 108-48. This game was never in question. After Gianna Kneepkens’s third 3-pointer of the game, the Utes led 21-3 just over five minutes in. This was the trend of the night. Utah barraged South Carolina State with 3-pointers, as they made a school record 21 shots from behind the 3-point line. The Utes were not hesitant to let them fly, as they shot at least 10 3-pointers in each quarter for a total of 53 on the night. The Bulldogs tended to leave shooters open throughout the night, and it came back to bite them.

Isabel Palmer exemplified the record-setting night most for Utah, as she scored a career-high 21 points. All of these points came from behind the line, as she shot a remarkable 7 for 10 from three. Palmer added 6 rebounds and 6 assists, rounding out her career night. Gianna Kneepkens added four 3-pointers of her own, scoring 16 points total. Alissa Pili also picked up a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Utah played tremendously on the defensive end of the court, holding their opponent under 50 points for the second consecutive game. It was a particularly impressive performance on the glass, as the Utes won the rebounding battle 63-23.

Baylor

Following the win over South Carolina State, the Utes traveled to Waco, Texas for their first road game of the season against the Baylor Lady Bears. Utah started off on the wrong foot, as they fell in an 11-2 hole early. Pili picked up two fouls within the first two minutes, sending her to the bench early. She only picked up one more the rest of the way, and foul trouble didn’t continue to be much of an issue after that.

Kneepkens connected on her first 3-pointer of the night to help get the Utes back in it. Utah rallied in the first quarter and eventually cut the lead to one after a Jenna Johnson basket, but the Lady Bears kept the lead 24-20 at the end of one. This was the theme of the game. The Bears never truly pulled away, but at the same time, the Utes never took the lead at any point either. Utah did tie it 51-51 in the third quarter after Kneepkens scored on an assist from Palmer, but Baylor quickly built the lead back. The Lady Bears led by nine at the end of three.

Baylor was able to keep Utah’s 3-point attack in check, which was a big part of why they ultimately won the game. After shooting around 40% from three in the first two games of the season, Utah only shot 25% against Baylor, 6 for 24. Half of these makes came from Kneepkens, who shot 3 for 6 herself. Free throw shooting was also a struggle for the Utes, who only made 9 of 17 attempts as a team.

Back-to-back jumpers from Pili at the start of the fourth cut the Baylor lead to seven. The second jumper was assisted by Dasia Young, one of her three on the evening. Unfortunately for Utah, Baylor held a steady lead throughout the quarter and prevented any rally from happening. A Kennady McQueen 3-pointer made the score 84-77 with 12 seconds left, and the Lady Bears ran out the rest of the clock.

The Utes will look to rebound from the loss to Baylor as they travel north this weekend to Anchorage, Alaska. Utah will face Alaska Anchorage on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. MDT as part of the Great Alaska Shootout.

 

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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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