Utah Women’s Basketball Get Win Over Highest Ranked Opponent In Program History

Jan 22, 2024, 10:34 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – Team work makes the dream work as they say, and boy did No. 16 Utah women’s basketball demonstrate that in their overtime win over No. 2 UCLA Monday night.

There was no one star in the Utes’ victory, but rather a full team effort and it resulted in the highest ranked win in program history.

It was another big check mark for head coach Lynne Roberts in what is becoming a long list of firsts for the Utah women.

 An Unbelievable Win For The Utah Women

The Utah women hung 94 points on a UCLA Bruins team that hasn’t lost a lot, and certainly not by that amount in the 2023-24. More impressively, they largely did it without Alissa Pili doing what most of us are used to Alissa Pili doing. Taking over the game.

Instead, everyone wearing a Utah jersey stepped up and had a moment, ultimately making it difficult for the Bruins to stop the bleeding from any one spot.

Kennady McQueen led the team in points with 21, while there was a three-way tie for second between Alissa Pili, Dasia Young, and Maty Wilke with 16 points each. Ines Vieira chipped in 12 points in the third-place spot.

“For us to score 94 points against UCLA who is such a good team with Alissa not having her best- they were so keyed in on her,” Roberts said. “Nothing was easy on her- so for her to hit four baskets and for us to score 94 points, that tells you what our team is about. Alissa is tremendous and she garners so much attention, but Kennady stepped up. Maty stepped up. Ines stepped up. Dasia Young hitting those threes in the first half- everybody did their part. Reese Ross with offensive rebounds and put backs in that first half- second half too. Just a total team win. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys- what they just showed- the toughness and the grittiness. What a weekend for us.”

Utah Stepped Up When UCLA Keyed In On Alissa Pili

McQueen echoed much of what coach Roberts said noting how proud she was of everyone on the team for stepping up with it became clear the Bruins were very keyed in on Pili.

“Everyone stepped up tonight and it was awesome to see,” McQueen said. “That’s a team full of firepower and you got to see that tonight. I was so proud to see everyone step up and fulfill their role and exceed. It was awesome.”

Utah Was Highly Efficient At The Line Against UCLA

Not only did Utah play and win as a team, but they also made the most of their trips to the free throw line; controlling what they could control.

The Utes were given 24 total attempts, they only missed once the entire night.

“That was huge, and I think that is a confidence thing too,” Roberts said. “It helps to be at home. In the overtime we were 15 of 16. Granted, they had to foul to get back in it or try to stop the clock, but we knocked them down. That is a testament again to the toughness- the mental toughness.”

A Utah Women’s Basketball Rebirth

By now, everyone knows the Utes were off and running with their same core that got them to the Sweet 16 last year when fate decided to play some funny tricks.

First, Issy Palmer exited the lineup for several months after a medical issue that surfaced during the Baylor game back in November. She finally made her return in Utah’s win over ranked USC last Friday.

Then, Gianna Kneepkens was lost for the season in December against BYU.

Two bodies down well into the season, and Utah was in a place where they needed to reinvent themselves.

Roberts, along with a handful of her players recently discussed what that process has been like in the middle of the season. Now it seems it’s all coming together, and the Utes are back to looking exactly how everyone thought they would, even though the lineup is a little different.

“As a coach, it’s really rewarding,” Roberts said. “That is the testament to the locker room. I’m not in there- it’s always interesting with players. You can get frustrated, and it can go one of two ways- you can go off and do your own thing and just play in that frustration or you can lean into each other. That is the beauty of team sports. That’s the science of it. The kind of magic of it. I think the chemistry we have- the culture we have- these guys have leaned into it.”

“Falling into your role, excepting your role, excelling in your role takes time,” Roberts continued. “We lose Gianna and it just takes time for Dasia to be like- yeah, I can knock those threes down. Or Maty to be like- yeah, I can defend anybody they put me. Kennady to be like- yeah, I can be that go-to. It just takes time and now, what I think you are seeing is that legitimate swagger and belief in themselves and each other.”

Utah Building A Strong Culture With Love And Respect

Maty Wilke got a little emotional talking about transferring to Utah from Wisconsin and what the change in scenery has meant for her.

“I came here not knowing exactly what it would be,” Wilke said. “I came here knowing I wanted to win and be surrounded by great teammates and coaching staff that believed in me. To finally get over- there will be more, but probably not as bad, but it’s just basketball, but to get over that hump and believe that I can provide for this team- it’s just so much fun to be out there. It’s very rare to have this- even the bench- everyone loves each other. The coaches, even when they are yelling, or mad at a turnover, like, I know they truly love us. That kind of makes me emotional. I love then so much.”

For Roberts, what Wilke said is just a testament to what she and her staff have been building since she arrived on campus in 2015.

“I am humbled to be the coach of this program,” Roberts said. “I have so much pride in how we do things in terms of- we do our best to treat people as a staff and treat people with respect and love. Just treat people right. I think if you take care of your players, they take care of you. We recruit really quality kids- I’ve learned the hard way, but the kids we have in our program are just quality. When you have kids that will run through a wall for each other, for the jersey on their chest- that’s when you start cutting down nets.”

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 Get Win Over Highest Ranked Opponent In Program History