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Strong Second Halves Lead Utah Women’s Basketball to a Washington Sweep

After back-to-back weekends in the Pacific Northwest, the Utes have a three-game homestand at the Huntsman Center coming up.
The+Utah+women%E2%80%99s+basketball+team+celebrates+a+basket+against+the+USC+Trojans+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City+on+Jan.+19%2C+2024.+%28Photo+by+Sarah+Karr+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29
Sarah Karr
The Utah women’s basketball team celebrates a basket against the USC Trojans at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Jan. 19, 2024. (Photo by Sarah Karr | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

The No. 20 University of Utah women’s basketball team (17-6, 7-4 Pac-12) picked up two big victories this weekend up in Washington. On Friday, they defeated the Washington Huskies 83-65. They followed it up on Sunday with a 73-61 win over the Washington State Cougars. The Utes now sit in fourth place in the Pac-12 standings as the race for the regular season conference title heats up.

Washington

The Utes started the weekend in Seattle against Washington. It was a back-and-forth first half. Jenna Johnson started the game off with a quick layup, followed by a field goal from Matyson Wilke to give the Utes an early 4-0 lead. After the Huskies responded and took the lead, Alissa Pili scored her first points of the night on a couple of free throws. Inês Vieira then nailed a pullup three on the next possession. With the game tied 13-13 a few minutes later, Vieira made a tough contested layup to give the lead back to Utah. The Huskies scored in transition soon after, but another Johnson basket put Utah ahead 17-15 at the end of the first.

Johnson scored again for the first basket of the second quarter, off of an assist from Wilke. Johnson ended up scoring Utah’s first three field goals of the period. Pili then scored to extend Utah’s lead to 29-20. After the Huskies cut into the lead with a couple baskets, Wilke hit a big three pointer off a Kennady McQueen assist. This was a pivotal moment late in the first half, as it swung the momentum back to the Utes. Utah finished the second quarter on a 6-2 run and led at halftime, 35-26.

To start off the second half, Pili made a beautiful pass to McQueen in the corner, who nailed the three for the half’s first points. Another Pili assist a few minutes later gave Utah a 43-32 lead on a three from Johnson. Pili then hit a pair of baskets herself to extend the lead to 48-32. Utah got pretty sloppy throughout the rest of the third quarter, with turnovers leading to Washington scores. The Huskies cut the lead all the way down to five, but McQueen drove and scored on the last play of the quarter to help give Utah some momentum back heading into the fourth.

Isabel Palmer drove and scored to start the fourth, despite getting fouled. Pili also scored an and-one a few moments later on a highlight play. She got the pass at the three-point line and faked the shot, getting her defender in the air. She drove past, drew the contact and hit an amazing shot off the backboard. Pili then hit the free throw to complete the three-point play. A pair of threes from Palmer and Vieira stretched Utah’s lead to 68-53 with six minutes left, and that deficit was too much for Washington to overcome. The Utes and Huskies traded baskets down the stretch, and Utah got to the finish line with an 83-65 victory.

It was the Pili show in Seattle: she finished with 31 points on 12-16 shooting, including making both of her three-point attempts. Johnson and Wilke both got into double figures as well, with 19 and 10 points respectively.

Washington State

Following the win, the Utes traveled to the other side of the state to play the Washington State Cougars on Sunday afternoon. On Utah’s first possession of the game, Pili got the ball with the shot clock running low. She flung the ball across the court to Vieira, who drilled the three-pointer just in time. Pili then hit a three herself on an assist from McQueen. McQueen ended up with five points in the first quarter, helping Utah maintain the lead. At the end of the period, the Utes were up 18-14. 

Palmer scored the first basket of the second quarter, and Wilke hit a three a couple minutes later to make it 23-16 Utes. On the following possession, Vieira did an amazing job of creating space and hit a tough shot in the paint. Pili then scored off a McQueen miss to make it an 11-point lead. This was a 9-0 run in total, but Washington State responded over the last few minutes of the half. What once was a 13-point lead for Utah was gone at halftime, as a shot from beyond half court by the Cougars tied it 34-34.

After Washington State took the lead with a jumper, McQueen was left wide open at the three-point line and calmly nailed the shot to take Utah’s lead back. McQueen scored again on the next possession, and then assisted a Johnson three-pointer that made the score 42-36 Utes. Utah slowly built a lead in the third quarter, but similar to the second, Washington State went on a run and knotted things back up. After the Cougars went on an 8-0 run to take the lead 50-49, Pili scored a beautiful shot in the paint. Crafty footwork in the paint got Utah a slim 55-52 lead heading into the fourth: Pili scored again, and Palmer scored the last Utah points of the period when she faked out her defender and scored a tremendous layup. 

Palmer made a very similar play to start the fourth, driving through the Cougars’ defense and scoring. After Washington State answered, Vieira drove the baseline and hit the reverse layup to bring the lead back to five. A few minutes later, Vieira dished it to an open Johnson at the three-point line, and she nailed it to give the Utes a 62-54 lead. McQueen drilled another three moments later to extend the lead to 11. Around three minutes to go and with the shot clock running down, Palmer had to chuck a three and swished it, making it 70-57 Utah and cementing the victory. The Utes came away with a 73-61 win at the end of the game.

This was a tremendous team effort from Utah. Pili led the team with 15 points, and Palmer scored 14 in perhaps her best game since returning from injury. Johnson, McQueen and Vieira all scored in double figures as well. 

After back-to-back weekends in the Pacific Northwest, the Utes have a three-game homestand at the Huntsman Center coming up. This weekend, they’ll host both Oregon State and Oregon on Friday and Sunday respectively. After that, they host Colorado next Friday.

 

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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.
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.

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