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Utah Women’s Basketball Comes Up Just Short Against South Carolina

It was a great effort for the Utes going up against the top ranked team in the country. Pili ended with a remarkable statline of 37 points on 15-23 shooting along with 3 steals.
The+Utah+women%E2%80%99s+basketball+team+celebrates+after+scoring+against+the+BYU+Cougars+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+Saturday%2C+Dec.+2%2C+2023.+%28Photo+by+Xiangyao+%E2%80%9CAxe%E2%80%9D+Tang+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Xiangyao Tang
The Utah women’s basketball team celebrates after scoring against the BYU Cougars at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

The No. 11 University of Utah women’s basketball team took on the No. 1 ranked South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday afternoon, as part of the Invesco QQQ Hoop Hall Women’s Basketball Showcase in Uncasville, Connecticut. Utes star forward Alissa Pili scored a career-high 37 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Utes fell 78-69 to the Gamecocks.

This was Utah’s second game without second-leading scorer Gianna Kneepkens, who went down with a foot injury against BYU on Dec. 2 and is out for the season. Isabel Palmer also missed her seventh straight game with an injury. 

In their previous game at Saint Joseph’s on Thursday, Utah picked up a 74-48 victory. Pili showed out, scoring 31 points and seven rebounds on an efficient 12-17 shooting from the field. Kennady McQueen added 11 points, and Inês Vieira picked up eight assists and three steals in an all-around effort.

Both Utah and South Carolina got off to fast starts on Sunday. Vieira, who has been filling Palmer’s spot in the starting lineup, was all over the place early. After the Gamecocks scored the first basket of the game, Vieira rebounded her own missed three and found Pili, who drove for a layup. Vieira then assisted a Jenna Johnson three-pointer to take the lead. Pili drilled a three a couple of minutes later and found McQueen for an open layup on the next possession to give Utah a 12-11 lead. The end of the first quarter was dominated by South Carolina, however. Utah struggled to stop their paint attack, as the Gamecocks made 10 of their first 12 shots from the field and ended the first quarter with a 27-16 lead.

Pili opened the second quarter with an impressive shot over 6’7” Gamecocks star Kamilla Cardoso. She hit two more shots in the paint and then nailed a three, all within the first two and a half minutes of the quarter. This was part of an incredible stretch for Pili, who, starting at the end of the first quarter, scored 16 consecutive points for the Utes. She was doing incredible work to create good looks, and a lot of credit should go to her teammates as well for setting up good shots as well. This cut Utah’s deficit from 11 at the start of the quarter to two in just a few minutes.

Pili, however, picked up three fouls in the first half and was forced to sit for the final few minutes of the second quarter. Foul trouble was also a problem for Pili in Utah’s only previous loss back on Nov. 14 against Baylor as well. Utah’s defense improved significantly in the second quarter. Unfortunately, Johnson drew four charges in the first half alone and South Carolina still led 41-34 at the half.

The Utes continued to force lots of turnovers in the second half. A little over three minutes into the third quarter, Pili picked up a steal and passed it to Vieira in transition. Vieira drove and dumped it off to Dasia Young for a wide-open layup. Utah then forced another turnover on an inbounds pass and Pili converted the and-one to make it 47-45 South Carolina. Much like the second quarter, Utah fought and cut into the lead, but the Gamecocks held them off and kept a 62-57 lead heading into the fourth.

It was a stalemate at the start of the fourth, as neither team scored for the first two and a half minutes. Johnson picked up Utah’s first points of the quarter on a reverse layup at the 6:44 mark. Utah kept hanging around, and a layup by Young cut it to 69-67 with under three minutes left. However, South Carolina pulled away in the final minutes and defeated the Utes 78-69.

It was a great effort for the Utes to go up against the top-ranked team in the country. Pili ended with a remarkable 37 points on 15-23 shooting along with three steals. Young played one of her best games of the season as well, picking up 12 points and six rebounds. The Utes forced 23 South Carolina turnovers but struggled in the rebounding battle.

The Utes don’t play again until next Saturday, Dec. 16 in Cedar City, when they take on Southern Utah. They return home to the Huntsman Center after that for a matchup against Weber State on Dec. 21.

 

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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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