The third-seeded Washington State Cougars women’s basketball team now has its opponent for the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament after Utah beat California, 66-60, in the final game of the opening round on Wednesday.
The game against the Utes will tip off at (approximately) 8:30 p.m. PT and be broadcast on Pac-12 Network and Pac-12.com (with a cable subscription).
For the first time ever, the Cougs got to sit around on the first day and watch a bunch of other teams fight it out for the right to play on the second day. And this one was a bit of an unexpected battle for the sixth-place Utes — considered to be a bubble team — against the 11th-place Golden Bears, who held a one-point lead heading into the final quarter despite winning just two games in conference.
But Utah did pull it out, as Kennady McQueen, Drew Gylten, and Gianna Kneepkens combined to score 19 of the team’s 22 points in the final period on a blistering 8-of-12 shooting — most of it in the paint.
The Cougs and Utes faced off just one other time this year thanks to the Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule, with WSU losing, 72-66, in Salt Lake City about a month ago. The Utes possess a strong NET ranking of 27, giving the Cougars another shot at a quality win to improve their own NET rating, which has improved recently but is still languishing in the 50s despite finishing in a tie for second in the Pac-12.
In that previous game, the Cougs got off to a strong start, but they fell behind at the end of the first quarter and the Utes pulled away for a 19-point lead by the end of the third. A strong finish closed the gap, but it was largely academic, and the Cougs will feel like Utah didn’t get their best shot. With WSU playing its best basketball of the year right now, the Cougs have to feel good about their chances for revenge.
If the Cougs pick up the win and advance, they’d face the winner of Oregon/UCLA, which could also provide another opportunity for revenge — payback for that insane 50-point loss to the Ducks in Pullman a few weeks ago.
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