Championship Bound! Women's Hoops Advanced to The Title Game
LAS VEGAS – Championship Bound! The Utah women's basketball program is off to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship game after defeating second seed Oregon, 80-73, on Saturday evening from the Michelob Ultra Arena.
Gianna Kneepkens shined as she led the Utes (20-10) with 24 points, including three three-pointers. Kelsey Rees set a career-high with 14 points, and Kennady McQueen and Jenna Johnson followed with 13 points. McQueen led the team with 11 rebounds, as she picked up her first career double-double against the Ducks (21-11).
The Utes Gianna Kneepkens came out strong in the first quarter as she scored the first five points of the game on a three and a pair of free throws. After a layup by Rees put the Utes ahead 7-2, Utah's offense cooled off and went four minutes without a field goal. During this time, the Ducks took a nine-point lead, 16-7. The Utes continued to battle but trailed by 11, 25-14 after the first quarter.
Utah battled in the second quarter and, after an old-fashioned three-point play by Johnson, put the Utes down eight, 27-19. A minute later, a layup by Kneepkens put the Utes down by six, 27-21. Oregon stretched the lead back double figures, but the Utes answered. With 3:12 left in the first half, Brynna Maxwell hit a three-pointer putting the Utes down by five, 35-30. Both teams scored two more points, and Utah went into halftime, trailing 37-32.
The Utes dominated the third quarter of play as they outscored the Ducks 23-8 in the frame. Kneepkens opened the quarter with a three making it a two-point game. Following a Sedona Prince layup put the lead to five, 40-35, in favor of Oregon, the Utes went on a 16-1 run. During the run, Utah had four different players hit a three-pointer. Utah and the Ducks traded buckets, but Utah slowly grew the lead to 10, 55-45, after a layup by Kneepkens at the buzzer.
???? What a finish by @giannakneepkens!
— Utah Women's Basketball (@UTAHWBB) March 5, 2022
Oregon did not go away as they battled back in the fourth quarter as an Endyia Rogers three-pointer trimmed the lead down to three, 58-55. The Utes responded on the next trip down has Johnson had an old-fashion three-point play.
The Ducks continued to battle, and Nyara Sabally scored four straight points, and the Ducks took a 66-65 lead. Over the next two minutes of the game, the Utes defense held the Ducks scoreless and scored eight straight. Following a pair of free throws by Kneepkens, Utah led 74-66. The Utes stretched the lead back, and Utah claimed a seven-point victory, 80-73, over Oregon.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 5, 2022
TALKING ABOUT THE GAME: HEAD COACH LYNNE ROBERTS
"I am incredibly proud of my team. We've been on them about how to win in March. We picked two things about what it takes to win in March, and we just talked about being 30 percent tougher, just every possession, every person. You don't have to be perfect, but you need to be as tough as you can and play as hard as you possibly can. I couldn't be more proud of them."
After a thrilling 80-73 victory against Oregon in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament, the Utes will match up with Stanford for a chance to hoist the Pac-12 tournament trophy. This is the first time Utah appeared in a Pac-12 tournament semifinal game, only advancing to the quarterfinals in both the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
It's the first time since the 2018-19 season that Utah will finish the season with at least 20 wins under their belt. This is the 29th time in program history and the third time since joining the Pac-12 in 2011 that the Utes will have 20+ wins in a season.
Utah takes on top-seeded the Stanford Cardinal in the Pac-12 Championship game on Sunday from Michelob ULTRA Arena. Tipoff will take place at 4 p.m. MT and will be aired on ESPN2.
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Fans can follow along during the 2021-22 season on social media (Twitter: @UtahWBB | Instagram: @UtahWBB | Facebook: Facebook.com/UtahWBB).