Alissa Pili leads No. 8 Utah to rout of California

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SALT LAKE CITY — Alissa Pili immediately showed that her injured ankle was doing just fine.

Pili scored 26 points and Jenna Johnson added 21 to help No. 8 Utah beat California 101-76 on Thursday night.

“It’s just been a lot of rehabilitation and treatment just to make me feel better and good enough to go,” Pili said.

Coming back from a sprained ankle that kept her out last game, Pili dominated her 26 minutes on the pitch and the Utes built up enough of a lead to give her more rest.

“She’s a tough kid, in case you haven’t noticed,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said.

Pili and Johnson combined to score 19 of 28 field goals, most in the paint.

“The thing about Alissa and Jenna is that they’re so reliable. We never have to wonder or worry about their headspace,” Roberts said.

The Utes made 27 layups taking almost all of their shots from beyond the arc or to the basket.

“Rolling hard to the hoop and guards finding me with little drop passes,” Johnson said of his success around the basket.

The Utes (24-3, 14-3 Pac-12) went 5-for-8 from behind the 3-point line and ran every chance in the second half to open a close game and head for a to-and-fro win. and keep them undefeated at home.

“We run at altitude every day and we have big engines. The other team always wears out before us and when we see that it makes us run even harder,” Johnson said.

Jayda Curry led the Bears (13-15, 4-13) with 28 points and Kemery Martin, a transfer from Utah, contributed 15.

“Jayda is going for it. He’s the Jada Curry we all know,” said coach Cal Charmin Smith. “We did a good job knocking down shots early.”

Behind Curry, a dynamic shooter who can score from anywhere, the Bears tied the Utes four times in the second quarter but never led. Issy Palmer banked a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Utah a 49-43 halftime advantage.

Pili, a transfer from USC, is a physical presence who bounced opponents off his post moves and defense throughout the game. They even stopped play in the first quarter to check if there was a flagrant when a bear collided with Pili and fell hard on the court, but ruled it a common foul.

After allowing a 9-0 run to start their last game against Arizona State, the Utes asserted themselves early this time with a 15-2 start behind Pili’s nine points in the first four minutes.

Despite a roster without seniors, the Utes are having the best season in program history with a top-five offense and a consistent Top 10 spot since the start of the new year.

“It was a good balanced team win. Now we’re 14-3? Wow, winning 14 games in this league is huge,” Roberts said. “So proud of this team.”


California: The Bears are playing as well as they have all season after beating USC in their last game and their offense continued to be unstoppable at times on Thursday. The deterrent to an upset bid was their inability to stop Utah’s multi-pronged offense and commit ill-timed turnovers to start Utah’s fast breaks.

Utah: After struggling on the trip to Arizona with a loss to Arizona and a narrow win over last-place finisher Arizona State, the Utes looked more like themselves with Pili controlling the middle and several players heading to the hoop on straight runs and quick breaks.


How far the Utes rise will depend more on how they fare in Saturday’s regular season finale against No. 3 Stanford, who hold a one-game lead over Utah in the Pac standings. -12.


California: In Colorado on Saturday.

Utah: hosts Stanford on Saturday.


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