The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.
Print Issues
Write for Us
Want your voice to be heard? Submit a letter to the editor, send us an op-ed pitch or check out our open positions for the chance to be published by the Daily Utah Chronicle.

Utah Women’s Basketball Sweeps Two Top-10 Opponents

In a huge weekend for the Women’s Basketball team, the Lady Utes toppled USC and UCLA in impressive displays of strength and perseverance.
XIangyao Tang
The Utah women’s basketball celebrate defeating the UCLA Bruins at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Jan. 22, 2024. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The No. 16 ranked University of Utah women’s basketball team picked up two monster wins over
top ten schools this weekend. On Thursday, they beat the No. 6 USC Trojans convincingly, 78-58. They followed it up on Monday with a thrilling 94-81 victory over the N0. 2 UCLA Bruins. 

It was an electric environment at the Huntsman Center for both games. Alissa Pili got off to a hot start on Thursday against USC, scoring the first four points for the Utes. Her first field goal came from a great pass from Inês Vieira, who then scored in transition. The Utes then went cold for a few minutes, but Kennady McQueen found Jenna Johnson wide open for three. This gave Utah a 9-5 lead about halfway through the first quarter, which they continued to build. Lani White made a great hustle play, tipping an offensive rebound to Johnson in traffic. Johnson then found Pili open for a layup. This helped the Utes lead 19-12 at the end of one.

Pili picked up right where she left off in the second quarter, immediately hitting a three and then following it up with a layup right after, both assisted by Vieira. The threes kept coming, as Dasia Young nailed one a few moments later. Pili scored two more baskets after that to extend Utah’s lead to 32-20. USC clawed back in the last few minutes of the first half, cutting the lead to six. Maty Wilke drilled a three with about a minute to go to make it 37-28 Utes, and that’s where the score stood at halftime. 

The Trojans came out hot to start the second half. They were able to cut the lead to three at one point, but McQueen found Pili who turned and scored to bring the momentum back to Utah. The lead slowly grew from there. McQueen turned a steal into a wide-open fastbreak layup and Wilke nailed a three right after to give Utah a 54-42 lead. Pili capped off the third quarter with another three-pointer and Utah entered the fourth with a 61-44 lead.

It was over from there. USC could not get back in the game in the fourth quarter. Isabel Palmer, returning from injury, scored the first basket of the fourth. It was smooth sailing from there, and another fastbreak layup from McQueen finished off the 78-58 victory.

Pili tied her career high with 37 points on 13/16 shooting and 5 for 6 from three. Palmer scored four points in nine minutes as Utah eases her back into action. Utah’s defense was tremendous as well. USC star Juju Watkins scored 26 points, but shot only 1 for 8 from three and turned the ball over six times. Only one other Trojan scored in double figures.

“We lost a lot of close games to ranked teams and I think we’re sick of coming up short,” said Head Coach Lynne Roberts after the game. “We talked about before Cal and even tonight, like let’s not let it to where things out of our control matter in the outcome, right? Let’s control what we can control and I’m proud of our team for fighting back and not pouting.”

Utes vs UCLA

The Utes were back in action on Monday night at the Huntsman Center, this time against the UCLA Bruins. After Vieira forced a turnover on UCLA’s opening possession, McQueen found Johnson for an open three just 20 seconds in. McQueen got another assist when Young nailed a three moments later. McQueen then nailed a three of her own to make it 11-6 Utes. The threes were falling all night, as Utah shot 13-28 for the game. Young hit another one that gave the Utes a 16-10 lead, and at the end of the first, Utah led 22-16.

The second quarter was largely a struggle for Utah offensively. A 7-0 run for the Bruins gave them a brief lead, but Wilke responded with a three to put the Utes back on top. McQueen nailed two more threes in the final two minutes of the half that were crucial in Utah maintaining the lead. The Utes went into the break ahead 35-32.

The third quarter was Utah’s best quarter offensively. Young opened the second half with two more threes. She ended the night shooting a remarkable 4 for 6 from deep. McQueen then drove and scored to give Utah a 43-35 lead. Palmer drove the baseline and made a beautiful pass to Wilke for a three at around the four-minute mark, but UCLA immediately responded with a three to quiet the rowdy Huntsman crowd. With less than a minute left in the third and the shot clock running down, Wilke was forced to put up a deep three and drained it, doing her best Steph Curry impersonation. Entering the fourth quarter, Utah led 63-54.

Things got tight in the fourth quarter. UCLA played ferocious defense and was slowly able to trim Utah’s lead. A Bruins three pointer made it 70-67 with just over two minutes left and Utah’s offense went cold. With just under a minute to go, Utah turned it over and the Bruins raced down court and scored to take their first lead of the second half. After a free throw, UCLA led 72-70 with just four seconds remaining, Vieira got the inbounds pass from McQueen and had a wide open lane to the basket. She scored a huge layup to tie the game and force overtime.

“Inês’ layup, like that wasn’t even the play and she just made a read and it was perfect,” McQueen said after the game.

Utah dominated overtime, outscoring the Bruins 22-9 in the period. Vieira drilled a pull up three with about three and a half minutes to go that gave the Utes a 77-74 lead, and the Utes never gave it up. UCLA was forced to foul to try and get back into it, but Utah was lights out at the free throw line. The Utes shot 23-24 for the game, and this excellent free throw shooting helped the Utes close it out and win 94-81.

This win marks the highest-ranked opponent Utah has ever beaten, and it was a total team effort. McQueen led the team both in scoring and rebounding, picking up 21 points and nine rebounds. She also recorded four assists in a remarkable all-around performance. Young and Wilke both scored 16 points on a combined 8-13 three point shooting. It was largely an off night for Pili, who faced ferocious defense from the Bruins. She scored 16 points on just 4-15 from the field but made key defensive plays toward the end and shot a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line. Vieira also was key, scoring 12 points, and five assists, and sending the game to overtime with that layup.

“Yeah, they’re huge wins but I guess the weird thing is that, it’s not to me, where I sit, it’s not ‘Oh my gosh, you’re just shocked.’ I have so much confidence in our team, and so much respect for USC and UCLA,” Roberts said after the game. “But I believe in our group too. And I believe that we can beat anybody we play if we play like that.”

Both of these wins were massive for Utah, who is looking to get back to the top of the conference standings after a few close losses. The Utes will visit all four of the Pacific Northwest schools in the next couple of weeks. They play the Oregon Ducks on Friday in Eugene before heading to Corvallis to take on Oregon State on Sunday.


[email protected]


Leave a Comment
About the Contributors
Isaac Dunaway
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.
Sarah Karr
Sarah Karr, Photographer
Sarah Karr was born and raised in Springfield, Oregon, and is attending the University of Utah with a major is communication and a minor in digital photography. Sarah is working with the Chronicle to improve her photojournalism skills and gain some experience in the newsroom. In her free time, Sarah likes to play online games, read and tend to her plants.
XIangyao Tang
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.

Comments (0)

The Daily Utah Chronicle welcomes comments from our community. However, the Daily Utah Chronicle reserves the right to accept or deny user comments. A comment may be denied or removed if any of its content meets one or more of the following criteria: obscenity, profanity, racism, sexism, or hateful content; threats or encouragement of violent or illegal behavior; excessively long, off-topic or repetitive content; the use of threatening language or personal attacks against Chronicle members; posts violating copyright or trademark law; and advertisement or promotion of products, services, entities or individuals. Users who habitually post comments that must be removed may be blocked from commenting. In the case of duplicate or near-identical comments by the same user, only the first submission will be accepted. This includes comments posted across multiple articles. You can read more about our comment policy here.
All The Daily Utah Chronicle Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *