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Issy Palmer’s return to form highlights No. 20 Utah’s win at Washington State

The Utes pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat the Cougars

SHARE Issy Palmer’s return to form highlights No. 20 Utah’s win at Washington State
Utah’s Isabel Palmer (1) goes up for a shot against Baylor’s Aijha Blackwell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, in Waco, Texas.

Utah’s Isabel Palmer (1) goes up for a shot against Baylor’s Aijha Blackwell during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, in Waco, Texas.

Julio Cortez, Associated Press

Issy Palmer gave herself a nice birthday gift Sunday: a breakout game.

The senior guard scored 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting as No. 20 Utah pulled away late to beat Washington State 73-61 at Beasley Coliseum in Pullman, Washington, on Sunday afternoon.

Palmer’s standout performance, which included a pair of rebounds and a steal, was one of several for a Utes team that swept their Pacific Northwest trip, after beating Washington on Friday.

Palmer returned to action two weeks ago after missing 10 weeks due to injury, but Sunday’s performance easily eclipsed the others since her return.

“She was great. We needed her there in that third quarter. She kind of gave us some life and a little bit of momentum,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts told the ESPN 700 broadcast after the game.

Alissa Pili scored 15 points and added seven rebounds, while Kennady McQueen contributed in several ways. She had 13 points, three 3-pointers, four rebounds, four assists and two steals.

Jenna Johnson (13 points) and Ines Vieira (10) also scored in double-figures as Utah shot 51.9% for the game.

That was more than enough to beat a game Cougars squad that kept the contest close through the first three quarters, before Utah outscored them 18-9 in the final period.

After Utah took a 29-16 lead in the second quarter, Washington State responded with a 13-2 run to end the first half, capped by a half-court shot by Astera Tuhina at the buzzer to tie the game at 34-34 at intermission. 

Both teams went on runs in the third quarter before Washington State briefly took a 50-49 lead with an 8-0 run.

Utah, though, had a quick answer, as Pili scored on back-to-back possessions before a Palmer step-through reverse layup put the Utes up 55-50.

In the fourth quarter, Utah outscored the Cougars 9-2 in the first 4:12 of the period to re-establish a double-digit lead. The Utes held Washington State, which shot 46.9% for the game, to just 30% in the fourth quarter.

“I thought the last six minutes of the second quarter we gave them life, I was really disappointed in just our intensity. We turned it over and gave them easy shots. And you know, they hit a three because we had to go into halftime because we weren’t paying attention,” Roberts said.

“At halftime we talked about we have to win the third. It’s 0-0, come out and win the third. And then after that third, we said let’s set the tone the first couple minutes of the fourth and I’m glad we did that.”

Bella Murekatete and Eleonora Villa each scored 15 points for Washington State, while Tara Wallack added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

In addition to a strong shooting day, the Utes also dominated the turnover game. Utah turned 16 Cougars turnovers into 25 points, while Washington State scored just four points off 12 Utes turnovers.

“That’s what our whole week was, was talking about getting back to who we are in terms of shot selection. I felt like we forced things, we were one pass and trying to make plays. Let the offense do the work,” Roberts said.

“You know, the ball moves and the way we move in space, we’re gonna get great shots and shooting percentage is a direct correlation of quality of shot.”

What’s next?

The Utes (17-6, 7-4 Pac-12) return home after a four-game road swing and will play their next three games at the Huntsman Center.

Up first is a pair of contests against No. 18 Oregon State on Friday (7 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Mountain) and Oregon on Sunday, Feb. 11 (noon, Pac-12 Network).

Then the Utes will host No. 6 Colorado on Feb. 16.