Utah Women’s Basketball Using Exhibitions To Prepare For Big Season Ahead

Oct 18, 2023, 9:01 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah women’s basketball got off to an extra early start to their 2023-24 season with an exhibition game against Colorado State-Pueblo with the hopes it will pay dividends later in the year.

The Utah women have a lot going for them, currently ranked No. 5 in the AP Top 25 and recently voted preseason first place in the Pac-12 by both the media and coaches.

Head coach Lynne Roberts wants her team to get off to the quickest start possible, and getting in valuable play time with athletes other than themselves should help the Utes identify their weaknesses while also working some new talent into their lineups.


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It Wasn’t Their Cleanest Game, But Utah Picked Up The Dub And Learned Some Things

The Utes put up a decisive 96-44 score on the Thunderwolves despite not playing their best ball and Roberts was more than ok with that due to the opportunities to learn before it really matters.

“It’s October 18 and we played a game,” Roberts said. “It’s about two weeks earlier than we usually do. I’m proud of our team. We had some good things and some things that weren’t very good. Dasia Young was out- she’s a little banged up but will be fine. Maty Wilke was on restricted minutes, so she just played a little bit. That’s what these exhibition games are about is just seeing where you are at, work on stuff, and we’ve got new players we’re trying to figure out where they fit in rotations.”

The Utes finished the night shooting 53% as a team from the field, 39% from the three and 95% from the free throw. 51 of their 96 points came off of 31 Colorado State-Pueblo turnovers.

Utah was good for 40 team rebounds, 10 blocks, 21 steals, and 23 assists, but were sloppy with the ball on occasion committing 20 turnovers themselves that will need to be cleaned up.

Utah Team Leaders Stats Leaders

Alissa Pili was her usual dominant self, accounting for 20 of Utah’s 96 points while Gianna Kneepkens had a good night with eight rebounds and eight assists.

Lani White had a career night coming in second on the team in points with 16 while adding two rebounds herself. It’s production White says she’s been working hard on over the summer after being a role player as a freshman last season.

“All summer I worked really hard,” White said. “I had a meeting with coach Rob toward the end of last season and I had an agenda. My only goal was to really hit all of my cues. This year I’m just really trying to make an impact. I don’t want to be a role player anymore. I want to be really involved with the team.”

As for Pili, she says it’s just nice to be comfortable in her surroundings after being the new kid in town last year as a transfer from USC.

“Coming from the other school I was at and coming here was a big change for me just culturally and within a team and what our principles and our key things we focus on are,” Pili said. “Coming to a program like that- it was tough to kinda break out of old habits and things like that. I had all of the support in the world around me and building off of that and going forward to this year- I know I have the support. I know I’ve got great people on my team.”

Utah Picking Up Where They Left Off With A Rowdy, Engaged Crowd

Wednesday’s attendance of 3,689 was not the biggest crowd the Utes have ever drawn or will draw this season, but it was pretty impressive given the parameters of what this game was and the slightly inconvenient 5:00 p.m. tip on a work day.

Roberts and the Utes were appreciative of everyone who showed up and hopeful they will continue to see bigger and bigger crowds as things ramp up.

“It was a good crowd for an exhibition game,” Roberts said. “It’s huge. It’s something I’ve been pushing on. There is excitement and buzz out there about us and we just have to keep improving and putting the product out there. To have 3700 at an exhibition at 5:00 is awesome. That would have been a great crowd for us a couple of years ago. Hopefully we can build it and hopefully despite the sloppiness today they will come back and bring a friend.”

Up Next For Utah

Utah women’s basketball will play one more exhibition game against Northwest Nazarene on Wednesday, October 30 with another 5:00 p.m. tipoff.

Fans are encouraged to come and enjoy some Halloween fun with trick-or-treating before the game among other fun activities.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Women’s Basketball Using Exhibitions To Prepare For Big Season Ahead