Pili’s late layup lifts No. 9 Utah over No. 8 UCLA 71-69
By JOHN COON
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Alissa Pili drove to the rim for a go-ahead layup with 0.8 seconds left to give No. 9 Utah a 71-69 win over No. 8 UCLA on Sunday.
Pili scored 23 points and had nine rebounds to lead Utah (18-2, 8-2 Pac-12), which rallied twice and closed the game on a 7-0 run. Issy Palmer tallied 14 points and five assists for the Utes, and Dasia Young chipped in 11 points.
Utah trailed for a total of 30 minutes before holding the Bruins scoreless over the final 68 seconds.
“It’s kind of like we woke up and started playing with the intensity needed to beat UCLA,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said. “Everything was hard. It was like we kind of had square wheels.”
Emily Bessoir scored a career-high 17 points, which included five 3-pointers, and had six rebounds to lead UCLA (17-5, 6-4). Kiki Rice added 11 points, and Londyn Jones and Gabriella Jaquez chipped in 10 points apiece.
The Bruins lost their second straight one-possession game, having lost to Colorado 73-70 in overtime on Friday.
“We still have some mental errors we got to take care of,” UCLA coach Cori Chase said. “You can’t give away possessions and win at the highest levels. I thought we gave less possessions today than we did at Colorado. But it still came down to a few of those mental possessions that I’m sure we would all like to have back.”
Utah trailed most of the first half, struggling with turnovers, but climbed ahead of UCLA 48-43 early in the third quarter on a 12-4 run, capped by Pili’s back-to-back baskets.
The Bruins countered with four unanswered baskets, with Bessoir and Jones combining to make three 3-pointers and fueling a 13-0 spurt that gave UCLA a 56-48 lead late in the third quarter.
“We know which shots we’re looking for and I think they found me in positions where I was ready to shoot and I credit my teammates for that,” Bessoir said.
In the fourth quarter, the Bruins went cold, shooting just 3-of-13 from the field.
Utah rallied again, and Pili buried a 3-pointer to tie it at 69 with 40.3 seconds left.
“We just came out just playing to win,” Pili said. “We were kind of up and down like on a roller coaster in the first half and I think we were a lot more consistent in the second half with just moving the ball and finding the right play. Our defense definitely picked up too.”
Palmer played 32 minutes against UCLA after missing the entire fourth quarter of Utah’s win over USC on Friday with a leg injury.
The junior guard gave the Utes a major boost Sunday with her best all-around performance in Pac-12 play so far: She finished one assist shy of matching her season-high and had her second-highest scoring game of the season.
“As the season’s gone on, I just put the foot on the accelerator and go,” Palmer said. “If it’s not there, teammates are there. Something opens up always with our team. Everyone’s always moving. We got an inside presence (and) shooters. It just works.”
UCLA: The Bruins countered Utah’s dominance in the paint by relentlessly attacking from the perimeter, which paid off until the final minutes. UCLA shot 9 for 20 from 3-point range.
Utah: The Utes’ persistent turnovers sapped offensive momentum at multiple junctures. Utah committed 16 turnovers, leading to 17 points for the Bruins.
UCLA: Hosts Arizona on Friday.
Utah: Visits Oregon State on Friday.
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