Women's Basketball Defeats Cal; Advances in Pac-12 Tourney
LAS VEGAS – The Utah women's basketball team earned its first Pac-12 Tournament victory since 2020 on Wednesday evening when they defeated Cal, 66-60, in the first round of the conference tournament. With the win, the Utes advance to the quarterfinals.
The freshman duo of Gianna Kneepkens and Jenna Johnson led the way for the Utes (18-10) as they combined for 38 points. Kneepkens scored a team-high 20 points while Johnson followed with 18. Kennady McQueen followed with 11 points to round the double-figure scorers against Cal (12-13). The Utes shot 44.8 percent from the floor in the win.
The Utes and Golden Bears were in a back and forth affair in the first quarter. The Utes took an early 5-2 lead after a three by Johnson and a layup by Kelsey Rees. The Utes stayed hot early in the quarter as Kneepkens hit a pullup jumper, making it 9-4. The Utes shooting started cooling off as the Golden Bears came out and took a 13-12 lead with 2:47 left in the quarter. Peyton McFarland scored four straight points for the Utes, and Utah took a 16-15 lead after one-quarter of play.
The Utes extended their lead to six points, 23-17, after a McQueen jumper starting the second quarter. Cal would bring the game back to a two-point game, 25-23, after a layup by Ugonne Onyiah with 4:48 left in the first half. Brynna Maxwell hit a three-pointer following the layup, putting Utah ahead by five, 28-23. The Golden Bears continued to battle, and a layup by Kneepkens put Utes ahead by six, 31-25, which would be the halftime score.
Over the first minute and a half after halftime, the Utes stretched the lead to ten, 36-26, after a three-pointer by Kneepkens. However, the Golden Bears wouldn't go away as they had the lead trimmed down to four, 37-33, after a Jazlen Green three. Utah continued to battle, and after a pair of free throws by Inês Vieira put Utah ahead by 3, 44-41. However, the Golden Bears scored the quarter's final four points, and Utah trailed 45-44 after three-quarters of play.
Utah took the lead back to start the fourth quarter when Dasia Young hit a three-pointer, but the Golden Bears answered back and tied the lead after a pair of free throws. Kneepkens gave the Utes the lead after a layup with eight minutes to go in the game. Utah extended the lead to five, but Cal answered and tied the game with 3:33 left. Johnson answered with a layup on the next possession, putting the Utes ahead, 58-56. Utah held the lead the rest of the game and earned a 66-60 victory. With the win, the Utes advanced to the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament.
TALKING ABOUT THE GAME: HEAD COACH LYNNE ROBERTS
"I'm proud of our team. It was not easy. It was physical, and I thought we just hung in there. We did a great job on the boards and didn't turn it over. We had 17 assists on 26 made baskets. That's kind of what we try to do. This was a total team effort. We were locked in. I think there was a little bit of nerves on both teams. I think we've seen it all day from everybody. That's behind us. I'm proud of our team. Anytime you can win in March, it's a good day."
The freshman duo of Gianna Kneepkens and Jenna Johnson led the Utes in scoring on the day as they combined for 38 of the 66 points of Utah. Kennady McQueen rounded out the double-figure scorers for Utah with 11. Kneepkens and Kelsey Rees led the Utes with five rebounds each. Dru Gylten dished out six assists on the night.
The Utes showed they were unselfish in the win over Cal in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament. Utah dished out 17 assists on 26 made field goals. Seven different Utes assisted in the contest, led by Gylten with six. This was the 11th time they dished out 15 or more assists in a game this season.
Utah takes on Washington State in the Quarterfinals of the Pac-12-Tournament. The contest will tip at 9:30 p.m. MT from Michelob ULTRA Arena.
Follow the Utes!
Fans can follow along during the 2021-22 season on social media (Twitter: @UtahWBB | Instagram: @UtahWBB | Facebook: Facebook.com/UtahWBB).