Pili, second-seeded Utah dominate Gardner-Webb in March Madness

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

SALT LAKE CITY – Alissa Pili tallied 33 points, eight rebounds and eight assists to power second-seeded Utah past 15th-seeded Gardner-Webb 103-77 Friday night in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament.

Jenna Johnson added 20 points and five assists for the Utes (26-4). Pili and Johnson combined to make 22 of 31 shots as the Bulldogs struggled to keep the duo from relentlessly attacking the basket.

The Utes advanced to play the North Carolina State-Princeton winner in the Greenville 2 Region.

Gardner-Webb (29-5) had a 21-game winning streak snapped and fell to 0-3 against Power 5 opponents this season. Jhessyka Williams scored 20 points for the Bulldogs.

Utah used a 14-0 run to carve out a 32-14 lead early in the second quarter. The Utes forced four turnovers over the final 3½ minutes of the first quarter to spark their game-breaking and held Gardner-Webb without a point for 4½ minutes.

The Bulldogs cut Utah’s lead to 58-50 in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Ki’ari Cain. That’s the only time the margin fell under double digits in the second half. Pili countered with a layup to spark a string of three straight baskets that pushed the Utes’ lead to 65-50.

Gianna Kneepkens chipped in 17 points and nine rebounds for Utah. The Utes shot 59% from the floor and had 32 assists on 37 baskets.

Alaisia Smith added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs before fouling out in the final minute of the third quarter. Cain had 14 points and six assists.

Early foul trouble curbed the Bulldogs’ ability to play aggressive defense and put them in a deep hole before the end of the first quarter. Gardner-Webb racked up eight team fouls within the first six minutes of the game.


Gardner-Webb: Williams brought her career scoring total to 2,049 points, moving her past Dina Smith for second place in program history. She came into the NCAA Tournament averaging a team-high 19.8 points per game.

Utah: The Utes dominated around the basket from the opening tip. Utah clogged the lane on defense and attacked the paint nonstop on offense. The Utes outrebounded Gardner-Webb 44-30 and outscored the Bulldogs 60-26 in the paint.

UCLA’s Jaquez Jr., Cronin highlight AP All-Pac-12 team

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Jaime Jaquez Jr.’s decision to return for his senior season worked out quite well for No. 2 UCLA.

Jaquez was named The Associated Press player of the year in the Pac-12 and Bruins coach Mick Cronin is the conference coach of the year. Washington forward Keion Brooks was named Pac-12 newcomer of the year by an eight-person panel of journalists who cover the conference.

Jaquez considered leaving Westwood for the NBA after three productive seasons that included a trip the Final Four and the Sweet 16 in consecutive years. The crafty 6-foot-7 swing man had another boxscore-stuffing season in his return, averaging 17.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while helping lead the Bruins to their first Pac-12 regular-season title in a decade.

Cronin has returned UCLA to prominence in four seasons since leaving Cincinnati. The Bruins had deep NCAA Tournament runs the past two seasons and were the class of the Pac-12 this year.

UCLA went 27-4 overall during the regular season, 18-2 in Pac-12 play and had its first undefeated home season (17-0) since 2006-07. The Bruins have the nation’s longest active home winning streak at 25 games and are the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament this week in Las Vegas.

Brooks had an immediate impact at Washington after transferring from Kentucky. The 6-foot-7 forward was third in Pac-12 scoring at 17.8 points per game while grabbing 6.9 rebounds.


u-Guard – Tyger Campbell, UCLA, Sr., 5-11, 180, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Guard – Boogie Ellis, USC, Sr., 6-3, 185, San Diego.

u-Forward – Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA, Sr., 6-7, 225, Camarillo, California.

u-Forward – Azuolas Tubelis, Arizona, Jr., 6-11, 245, Vilnius, Lithuania.

Center – Branden Carlson, Utah, Sr., 7-0, 228, South Jordan, Utah.

-“u” denotes unanimous selection.


Guard – Drew Peterson, USC, Sr., 6-9, 205, Libertyville, Illinois.

Guard – Keion Brooks Jr., Washington, Sr., 6-7, 210, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Forward – Mouhamed Gueye, Washington St., So., 6-11, 210, Dakar, Senegal.

Forward – N’Faly Dante, Oregon, Sr., 6-11, 230, Bamako, Mali.

Center – Oumar Ballo, Arizona, Jr., 7-0, 260, Koulikoro, Mali.

Player of the year – Jaime Jaquez Jr., UCLA.

Coach of the year – Mick Cronin, UCLA.

Newcomer of the year – Keion Brooks, Washington.

All-Pac-12 voting panel: Bruce Pascoe, Arizona Daily Star; Michelle Gardner, Arizona Republic; Paul Klee, Colorado Springs Gazette; Adam Grosbard, Orange County Register; Jon Wilner, San Jose Mercury News; James Crepea, The Oregonian; Pat Rooney, BuffZone.com; Jesse Sowa, Corvallis Gazette-Times.

Washington State upsets No. 3 Utah 66-58 in Pac-12 quarters

The Register Guard

LAS VEGAS – Bella Murekatete scored 19 points and Washington State upset No. 3 Utah 66-58 in a Pac-12 quarterfinal game.

The Cougars (21-10) led by three with 39.3 seconds left and had the ball, and rather than foul, the Utes allowed Charlisse Leger-Walker to virtually dribble out the shot clock, make one pass, get the ball back, and drain a 3-pointer with eight seconds left to extend the lead to 64-58.

Leger-Walker finished with 15 points, while Ula Motuga chipped in 13 for the Cougars.

Utah (25-4) was led by Gianna Kneepkens, who scored 18 points. Alissa Pili added 11 points for the Utes.

After trailing by four at halftime, the Cougars outscored Utah 27-11 in the third quarter after erasing a two-point deficit by closing the period on a 14-0 run and took a 53-41 lead into the final period.

Washington State hit 11 of 19 (57.9%) from the floor in the third, including 5 of 7 (71.4%) from 3-point range, while the normally high-scoring Utes struggled behind 36.4% shooting (4 of 11).

After opening the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from Kneepkens, the Utes missed eight straight shots while the Cougars built a 14-point lead, 58-44, with 7:41 left in the game.

The Cougars limited Utah’s second-chance opportunities, with 77.1% defensive rebounding percentage. Washington State also outscored Utah with second-chance points, 11-4


Washington State: The Cougars exacted revenge from last year’s tournament when the teams also met in the quarterfinals. Utah beat Washington State, 70-59.

Utah: The Utes were the highest-scoring team in the Pac-12 this season, averaging 84.4 points per game. They never found their groove on offense, from the opening tip, as they shot a rather bleak 27% over the first five minutes.


Washington State: Will face Colorado or Oregon State in Friday’s semifinal round.

Utah: Awaits an NCAA bid. —

Utah projected as No. 1 seed in women’s NCAA Tournament

Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard / USA TODAY NETWORK

Utah would join South Carolina, Indiana and Stanford as No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament if it began now.

The NCAA women’s basketball selection committee did its second and final reveal Thursday of the teams in line for the top 16 seeds before selection Sunday. South Carolina, Indiana and Stanford were also listed as top seeds in the earlier reveal.

“That was the easiest part of the day. I am really looking forward to seeing those teams play towards the end of the season,” selection committee chair Lisa Peterson said in a phone interview. “Indiana and Iowa, Stanford and Utah play this weekend.”

None of Thursday night’s games were factored in, including No. 3 Stanford’s double-overtime win over No. 21 Colorado. This is the final weekend of the regular season for most major conferences.

The Utes – ranked eighth in the AP Top 25 – moved up to the one-line, replacing UConn, which was beaten by St. John’s on Tuesday night. Utah faces Stanford on Saturday to close out its regular season. The Huskies fell to a No. 2 seed, seventh overall.

Peterson said the biggest debate was about who the fourth No. 1 should be – Utah or LSU.

“That was probably the biggest topic of conversation,” she said. “You have more information when you’re looking at these teams. One thing that stuck out was the number of top 25 and 50 wins when you compare LSU to Utah. It was a difficult choice for sure. One thing we couldn’t get past was (LSU’s) strength of the schedule.”

The top 16 seeds will host first- and second-round games with the regional rounds being played at two neutral sites for the first time instead of the traditional four. Seattle will host half of the Sweet 16 and Greenville, South Carolina, will host the other eight teams.

South Carolina and Indiana were projected as the top seeds in the Greenville Regional with Stanford and Utah in Seattle. The unbeaten Gamecocks were the overall No. 1 seed.

Joining the Gamecocks in their projected bracket were No. 2 Virginia Tech, No. 3 Iowa and No. 4 Michigan. The Hoosiers would have No. 2 UConn, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Arizona.

The other top teams in Stanford’s region were No. 2 Maryland, No. 3 Duke and No. 4 Villanova. Utah would be joined by LSU, Ohio State and Texas.

Arizona was the only team not included in the original reveal that entered the second one. The Wildcats replaced North Carolina.

Teams just outside the top 16 included the Tar Heels, Tennessee, Colorado, Oklahoma and UCLA.

The Big Ten had five teams in the top 16 while the Atlantic Coast Conference and Pac-12 each had three. The Southeastern Conference and Big East had two and the Big 12 had one.

The Final Four will be played in Dallas on March 31 and the NCAA championship game is two days later. Dallas is also hosting the Division II and III championship games on April 1.

Selection Sunday is March 12.

The NCAA has been doing in-season reveals for women’s basketball since 2015 to give teams an early idea of where they could end up in the bracket.

No. 7 Utah hits 16 3-pointers in 92-69 win over Washington

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

SALT LAKE CITY – Gianna Kneepkens hit five 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead No. 7 Utah to a 92-69 victory over Washington on Friday night.

Kneepkens added a team-high six assists for the Utes (21-2, 11-2 Pac-12), who shot 51% from the field and made 16 3-pointers overall. Alissa Pili finished with 17 points and Lani White and Jenna Johnson added 11 points apiece.

Elle Ladine scored 18 points to lead Washington. Haley Van Dyke and Darcy Rees scored 10 points apiece for the Huskies (13-10, 5-8), who shot 44% from the field.

Utah overwhelmed Washington with its outside shooting in the first half. The Utes went 10 for 14 from 3-point range, punctuated by Issy Palmer’s buzzer-beater from halfcourt to end the half. Kneepkens led the way, knocking down four outside baskets.

The Huskies struggled to match Utah’s potent offense. Washington knotted it up at 9-all on back-to-back baskets from Van Dyke and Lauren Schwartz. Kneepkens countered with back-to-back 3s to fuel a go-ahead 8-0 run for the Utes.

Utah broke the game open behind a 14-2 run in the second quarter. Kneepkens and Kennedy McQueen bookended the outburst with more 3-pointers. McQueen’s outside basket gave the Utes a 44-29 lead.

Utah built a 30-point lead late in the fourth quarter when Johnson made a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to put the Utes up 88-58.


Washington: Getting stops proved to be a chore for the Huskies. Washington shot the ball well early, but struggled to match the offensive efficiency from Utah.

Utah: Rebounding ended up being a huge difference-maker for the Utes early. Utah outrebounded Washington 32-25 and had 14 offensive rebounds. The Utes had six offensive boards in the first quarter alone after holding the Huskies to four total rebounds.


Washington: At Colorado on Sunday.

Utah: Hosts Washington State on Sunday.

Carlson scores career-best 27 points; Utah routs UTSA 91-70

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
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SALT LAKE CITY – Branden Carlson scored a career-high 27 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots as Utah rolled past UTSA 91-70 on Tuesday night for its fifth straight win.

Carlson was 10 of 14 from the floor and made 6 of 7 free throws. Marco Anthony added 16 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season for Utah (9-2). Anthony also had four assists. Gabe Madsen also had 16 points and Lazar Stefanovic had 10 for the Utes, who shot 52% (36 of 69) overall.

Utah held UTSA (5-5) to 38% shooting from the floor and has kept opponents under 40% in 9 of 10 games this season.

Japhet Medor scored 23 points to lead the Roadrunners.

The game was tied at 29, but Utah’s 10-5 surge to close the first half gave it a 39-34 halftime lead. The Utes opened the second with Carlson’s dunk that sparked a 20-5 run to stretch the lead to 59-39 with 14:19 remaining. Carlson had eight points and Anthony added six during the span.

Utah faces rival BYU in Provo on Saturday. UTSA hosts Bethune-Cookman on Sunday.