The Utes showed they are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country in 1st-round win
Coach Lynne Roberts’ team made a school postseason-record 15 triples in Friday’s 92-69 demolition of Arkansas
AUSTIN, Texas — The rest of the country got a taste Friday afternoon of what University of Utah women’s basketball fans and Pac-12 opponents have known for a couple of months now.
These Utes can really shoot the basketball.
They blistered the nets early and often Friday at the soon-to-be demolished Frank Erwin Center, destroying Arkansas 92-69 in an NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament first-round game.
The 92 points is the most ever scored by a Utah women’s team in a Big Dance game, and the 15 3-pointers the most in program history in the tournament.
It was as if the Utes stored up all the missing glory from not making it into March Madness since 2011 and unleashed it on the unsuspecting Razorbacks, who made only four triples on 23 attempts and trailed by as many as 30 points in the second half before rallying late to slap a little lipstick on a hog of a shooting performance.
“We ran into a really, really good team that played really, really well. I just thought Utah was unbelievable today. They’ve got so many weapons. They can make you look bad with just one little mistake.” — Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors.
Meanwhile, Utah’s presentation was a masterpiece, from the way senior guard Dru Gylten played maestro in an 11-assist recital to the way guards Gianna Kneepkens (3 of 3) and Kennady “Lightning” McQueen (6 of 9) combined to go 9 of 12 from deep.
“We ran into a really, really good team that played really, really well,” said Arkansas coach Mike Neighbors.
“I just thought Utah was unbelievable today. They’ve got so many weapons. They can make you look bad with just one little mistake.”
The Utes have now made 306 3-pointers on the season, which was tied for fourth in the country heading into Saturday’s tournament games.
Can the Utes (21-11), who have won four of their last five, do it again?
Utah meets No. 2 seed Texas, the Big 12 tournament champion, at 3 p.m MST in a Round of 32 game Sunday.
The Longhorns (27-6) downed Fairfield 70-52 in Friday’s second game at Erwin Center, which will give way to a new on-campus arena at UT next month.
The old adage in golf is that it is hard to follow a great round with anything close to that, but Utah has been firing at friendly rims all season, with remarkable success.
The highest-scoring team in the Pac-12, and the 16th highest-scoring team in the country, can light it up one through eight on the roster.
Friday, Minnesotan Jenna Johnson was 4 of 8 from 2-point range and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line for 12 points; Australian Kelsey Rees was 4 of 6 from the field and 3 of 4 from the line.
Gylten, meanwhile, didn’t miss a shot, while backup guard Isabel Palmer — a probable starter on almost any other team in the country — was 4 of 8 for nine points.
“I just think we all know going into March that every team is a good team, so we have to have a complete game,” Kneepkens said.
“We know where our focus has to be and yeah, I think we showed that.”
Utah got 27 points from its bench, Arkansas just four. No Utah starter played more than 29 minutes, which should help the Utes have their legs on Sunday.
“We all like to shoot the 3 and all of us can so it makes it a lot of fun, but we don’t like to say we live by the 3 because if we aren’t hitting, we find other ways to score,” Kneepkens said.
Utah coach Lynne Roberts admonishes her team to “throw the first punch” in every game and play on attack, and the Utes did just that Friday.
A similar mindset will be needed against the Longhorns, who have won 12 in a row.
“What a great opportunity ahead of us to (pull off) an upset, and I think we have no doubt in our team and our ability,” McQueen said.
“It is exciting. This is what March is about, and so to have that opportunity and to make a lot of noise in the tournament, it is very exciting, I think.”
The rest of the nation is starting to take notice. Even in Texas.
Utes, Longhorns on the air
No. 7 seed Utah (21-11) vs. No. 2 seed Texas (27-6)
Sunday, 3 p.m. MST
NCAA Tournament Second-Round Game
At Frank Erwin Center, Austin, Texas
Radio: ESPN AM 700