GREENVILLE, S.C. (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah women’s basketball team will play just its third Sweet 16 game ever tomorrow against LSU in Greenville, South Carolina.
“It’s super cool,” said forward Jenna Johnson. “Going into the season we had big goals. We wanted to win the Pac-12 championship, make it as far as we could in the NCAA Tournament, and getting to do it with such a great group of people has been really fun.”
“We always talk about it,” added point guard Issy Palmer. “How we’re just an ordinary bunch of girls that come together from all over the world, and we all hang out with each other off the court. It’s not like we just do business on the court and go our separate ways.”
“It’s like a sisterhood here,” said Pac-12 Player of the Year Alissa Pili. “To accomplish and make history with them is great.”
If Utah wins tomorrow, they would make history, as only the second Utah team to make it to the Elite 8, joining the 2006 Utes. But first, they have to get past a very good LSU team.
“LSU is a great tea,” said guard Gianna Kneepkens. “If you’re in the Sweet 16, you’re a pretty good team, so we’re just focusing on personnel. They have a lot of great players and athleticism.”
LSU’s coach, Kim Mulkey, won three national championships as the head coach at Baylor. Tigers standout Angel Reese is one of the top players in the country, averaging 24 pts and 16 rebounds per game.
“They’re a very athletic team, they are very well coached,” said Palmer. “They’re very disciplined, and it’s going to be a really good game.”
Even though Utah (27-4) is the #2 seed, and the Tigers (30-2) are the third seed, LSU is a five-point favorite. One of LSU’s two losses was to #1 ranked and undefeated South Carolina. But being the underdog doesn’t bother the Utes at all.
“We’ve been underdogs all season,” Johnson said. “I feel like we’ve kind of had a chip on our shoulders, so it doesn’t really change. We’re going to go in with that same mentality.”
“Obviously people have their opinions,” Palmer said. “We’ll just go out, play our best basketball and see who wins at the final buzzer.”
“People are going to say what they want to and at the end of the day, we’re used to being the underdogs,” said Pili. “Just going out there, proving people wrong and proving ourselves right is going to be a great feeling.”
“It doesn’t bother me because I know what we’re capable of, and the only people that need to know what we’re capable of is us in this locker room,” said Kneepkens. “So we’re confident and we’ve been preparing for moments like this so we’re really excited to get out there.”
Utah and LSU will play at 3:00 p.m MT Friday afternoon.