SALT LAKE CITY (AP)Alissa Pili scored 27 points, including the winning free throws with 0.3 seconds left, to lead No. 10 Utah to an 80-79 victory over No. 14 Arizona on Sunday.
Pili went 11 of 16 from the field, while Gianna Kneepkens finished with 20 points and seven rebounds for the Utes (15-1, 5-1 Pac-12). Issy Palmer added 10 points. Utah snapped a five-game losing streak against Arizona dating back to 2019.
”We answered their runs. They answered our runs. Just a really hard-fought game by both teams,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said.
Cate Reese tallied 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead Arizona (14-4, 4-3). Jade Loville finished with 17 points and Esmery Martinez and Shaina Pellington chipped in 10 apiece for the Wildcats, who lost their second straight game.
Arizona forced 14 turnovers and scored 18 points off those turnovers. It just wasn’t quite enough to offset Pili’s dominance.
”We could not guard Pili,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes said. ”We did not have an answer for her. She destroyed us all night.”
Arizona trailed by eight points in the third quarter before rallying to take a 75-73 lead with 1:08 left in the game on Helena Pueyo’s jumper that capped a 6-0 spurt.
Kneepkens countered with a 3-point play on the other end and followed with a pair of free throws to put Utah back ahead. Paris Clark scored back-to-back baskets – the second off a steal – to give the Wildcats a 79-78 lead with 1.6 seconds left.
Pili was fouled before time expired, and her free throws helped the Utes avoid their first home loss of the season.
”There’s pressure, but it’s nothing I can’t handle,” Pili said. ”With the game on the line and just how hard we fought the whole game, I just had to make those.”
Pili made her first eight field-goal attempts and went a perfect 7 of 7 from the floor before halftime.
Arizona kept pace with the Utes behind their own efficient shooting, going 58% from the field in the first half.
”We didn’t give up,” Barnes said. ”I think we put ourselves in a situation to win.”
Utah was up 42-40 at half before the lead changed again. But the Utes surged back in front 55-47 late in the third quarter after Arizona missed 10 of 11 shots over an eight-minute stretch.
Utah had eight live and deadball offensive rebounds against Arizona, and made each extra possession count. The Utes outscored the Wildcats 18-10 in second-chance points, despite finishing with six fewer offensive boards.
Roberts praised her team’s tenacity in finding ways to convert each offensive board into a positive offensive play.
”That was huge. We talk a lot about basketball being a game of chances,” Roberts said. ”Arizona is physical, so getting an o-board isn’t as easy as saying go get an o-board. It’s hard.”
Arizona: The Wildcats avoided enduring another sluggish start and generated several baskets from attacking the paint and getting out in transition. Arizona outscored Utah 18-4 in fast-break points.
Utah: Pili showed once again why she is a national player of the year candidate. The junior forward put the Utes on her shoulders and carried the offense at critical junctures.
Arizona: Visits Arizona State on Jan. 22.
Utah: Visits No. 2 Stanford on Friday.
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