‘We’ll Be Ready’ Lynne Roberts’ Utes Confident On Eve Of Top-10 Tilt Against UCLA

Jan 28, 2023, 3:52 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2023, 1:09 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah women’s basketball team has been steamrolling competition this season and the Salt Lake City community is beginning to take notice.

An announced 3,300 fans, but probably closer to 4,000 to this untrained reporter’s eye, braved a winter snowstorm to see the Utes defeat the USC Trojans on Friday night.

Beyond a brief second half stretch where head coach Lynne Roberts felt they ‘took our foot off the gas a little’, the fans got their money’s worth.

The ninth-ranked Utes made quick work of the Pac-12’s best scoring defense, winning 83-73. Alissa Pili, a Trojan for three seasons and in her first year with Utah, led the Utes with 21 points, five rebounds and four assists. Scoring and creating in a variety of ways, Pili showed exactly why Roberts was excited to land the 2019-20 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year when she entered the transfer portal after her third season in Los Angeles.

β€œI joke with her that I tried to call her out of high school and she never called me back,” Roberts said of the junior from Alaska. β€œSo it’s nice that she answered my call this time.”

RELATED: Utah Women’s Basketball Pull Through Bogged Down Game Against USC Trojans

The win, coupled with UCLA’s 73-70 overtime loss at Colorado, Utah strengthened their hold on second place in the Pac-12.

Ahead of a Sunday afternoon date with the No. 8 Bruins, Utah has one advantage they didn’t enjoy last year.

“It comes back to experience,” third year guard Kennady McQueen said. “I think last year losing some of those close games, learning from them and what we should have done or didn’t do down the stretch.”

She cited the teams second half resilience against USC as growth from last season.

RELATED: Utah Women’s Basketball Has Lofty Goals, Remain Focused On β€˜Process’

“Just like this game, they started cutting into the league, and we found a way to win. That’s a testament to learning from last year. We know who we are. We know our strengths and are getting better at our weaknesses. Just buying into that every game, and showing up to play every game, we get results like today.”

“There is a lot of confidence from the group. We said it at 5:00 minutes left, ‘we’re winning this game. Is it gonna be ugly or are we going to do it right’, Roberts said. “Experience is a wonderful thing. You learn from those mistakes.”

No . 8 UCLA Bruins (17-4, 6-3)

The Bruins come in averaging 71.5 points per game. A staunch defense allows a fifth in the Pac-12 60.4 points. They’ll have their work cut out for them with Utah entering the week as the highest scoring team in the conference and fifth in the nation 85.4 points per contest.

The Bruins are a balanced team. Good at nearly everything but nothing really jumps out on the stat sheet. The one area where UCLA excels is on the offensive glass, pulling down a conference-high 15.1 of their own missed shots each game.

Dynamic point guard Charisma Osborne is the player to watch. A Pac-12 All-Freshman honoree in 2019-20, Osborne was limited to 23 and 28 games the past two years. Starting 20 of 21 games this season, Osbornes leads the Bruins with 16.3 points per game. Kiki Rice is the only other Bruin scoring in double-figures as she adds 12 points per game.

“They’re good. They’re very well coached. They execute their stuff,” Roberts said of the Bruins.

“We’ll be ready,” she finished with a smile.

Up Next

The Huntsman Center serves as the backdrop for a top-10 women’s basketball matchup when the No. 9 Utah Utes (17-2, 7-2) welcome in the No.8 UCLA BruinsΒ  on Sunday, January 29. Tip-off is scheduled for 12 p.m. (MST). The winner will take over second place in a loaded Pac-12, behind only the Stanford Cardinal.

Utah will be looking to improve to 2-8 at home against the Bruins and win the second straight over a proud program. Last season, Roberts and the Utes beat an injury plagued Bruins team 75-70 for the program’s first win over UCLA since joining the Pac-12. Freshman Jenna Johnson led Utah with 20 points while eventual Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Gianna Kneepkens poured in 17.

Utah is 2-1 against ranked opponents this season. It is the first time the Utes have beaten multiple ranked opponents in the same season since 2005-06. Point guard Isabel Palmer will be a game time decision against UCLA after leaving the game against USC with a second half injury.

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‘We’ll Be Ready’ Lynne Roberts’ Utes Confident On Eve Of Top-10 Tilt Against UCLA