Washington State stuns Utah in Pac-12 tournament, likely ends Utes' bid for 1-seed in NCAA tournament
Utah’s run in Las Vegas, and hopes for a top-seed in the NCAA women's basketball tournament, came to an end Thursday night.
Washington State stunned No. 3 Utah 66-58 in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament. The win was the first in program history over a top-3 team. WSU will take on either Colorado or Oregon State on Friday in the conference semifinals.
Utah will now likely miss out on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Utes, who hold a 25-4 record and earned a first-round bye at the Pac-12 tournament, were replaced by Maryland as the last No. 1 seed by ESPN’s Charlie Creme.
"They played fearless," Utah head coach Lynne Roberts said. "They shot the ball great in the second half and we kept pushing. We didn't shoot to our normal ability, and you have to give their defense some credit on that.
"It's hard to, they had a game under their belt and this was our first game. That's not an excuse, but I think that is a reality of getting that first-round bye. I also think that the big takeaway is how stinking good this conference is. I mean, that's a good team, and they are the 7 seed. It just speaks to how good this conference is and how on any given night anyone can win."
HOW ‘BOUT THEM COUGS ⁉️ pic.twitter.com/fLgn9R0EQs
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) March 3, 2023
After a tight battle through the first half, Washington State surged ahead near the end of the third quarter. The Cougars used a 19-3 run that spanned about seven minutes and well into the fourth quarter to take control of the game.
Though Utah crawled back into it in the final minutes, it was too late. Washington State guard Charlisse Leger-Walker sealed the win with a deep 3-pointer with eight seconds left, which propelled them to the eight-point win.
HER NAME IS CHARLISSE LEGER-WALKER!!!!
PUT SOME RESPECT ON HER NAME!!!!
📺 | @Pac12Network
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— WSU Cougar Women's 🏀 (@WSUCougarWBB) March 3, 2023
Leger-Walker finished with 15 points and five rebounds in the win. Center Bella Murekatete added 19 points and five rebounds.
It's the first time since 2016 that a top-2 seed didn’t reach the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament.
Gianna Kneepkens led Utah with 18 points and three rebounds, and Alissa Pili added 11 points after shooting 3-of-14 from the field. They were the only two players to score in double figures for the Utes, who shot 37.7% from the field as a team.
According to Creme, Maryland is now the final No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament. The Terrapins ended their regular season on a six-game win streak, and will take on Illinois in the Big Ten tournament Friday afternoon.
"I think we just have to do it," Roberts said. "I think our goals coming into the season was to win a conference championship, which we did. And to host the first couple rounds of the NCAA tournament, which we're going to be able to do. So our goals are still in front of us ... When you get knocked down, it's more fuel to the fire. So it's almost I think better. We'll have more time to practice. We got things we can get better at and I have no doubt that we'll be spitting nails by the time that first round, the ball gets thrown up for that first round game."