SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Down by one point, with .3 seconds left against #14 Arizona on Sunday, Alissa Pili knew she was going to win the game at the free throw line for the Utes.
“I mean, I stay after practice everyday and make 25 in a row,” Utah’s center said. “So I just had to get in my element a little bit. There was pressure, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
Pili did indeed drain two pressure-packed free throws, as the Utes improved to 15-1 on the year with an 80-79 win.
“When she stepped out there, she has that mentality that nothing fazes her,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “But what a great moment. You dream of those moments.”
Pili has had a ton of great moments in her athletic career. Coming out of high school in Alaska, Pili was a 2-time national female athlete of the year, winning no less than 13 state titles in basketball, volleyball, wrestling, and track and field.
“My whole life I’ve been playing sports,” Pili said. “My family is a big sports family, so we were really competitive. It’s just been a big part of my life. Coming from Alaska, we’re surrounded by a small community where it’s really tight nit. So when I came out to college, I just had a bunch of supporters behind me.”
“Her high school career was unbelievable,” added Roberts. “She’s just an incredible athlete.”
After playing three years at USC, Pili decided to transfer to Utah, where she has fit in seamlessly so far with the Utes. Pili leads the team in scoring at 19.8 points per game while shooting 63% from the floor, as the 8th-ranked Utes have achieved its highest ranking in school history.
“It really was the team culture that I saw from afar playing against them,” Pili said about why she chose Utah. “I just saw that they played really hard for their coach and they played as a team. I really liked that.”
“It’s been really rewarding to see her buy in, hook, like and sinker,” said Roberts. “She’s done what we’ve asked, and she’s playing the best basketball of her life right now.”
Pili will have one year of eligibility remaining after this season, and she’s hoping to lead the Utes deep into the NCAA Tournament.
“The sky is the limit for this team,” she said.
Pili and Utah take on #4 Stanford Thursday night at 7:00 p.m.