SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – For the first time ever, the University of Utah women’s basketball team will host an NCAA Tournament game.
The co-Pac-12 champs earned a #2 seed, its highest seeding ever, and will open the tournament at the Huntsman Center against Big South Conference champions Gardner-Webb. The Runnin’ Bulldogs were 29-4 this season, while the Utes was a share of its first Pac-12 title with a record of 25-4.
“I’m pleased that we got a two-seed,” said head coach Lynne Roberts. “I think we earned that over the course of the season. I know that Gardner-Webb always has a good team. We’ve got our work cut out for us. It’s always fun to play new teams that you don’t know much about and they don’t know much about you. We’re excited we get to host that’s been one of our goals the entire season.”
“It means a lot,” said Pac-12 Player of the Year Alissa Pili. “Especially just not playing as well as I did the last two years, and just joining a team and being one of the top seeds in the tournament. It’s surreal. I would have never thought that I would be in this position, but it’s just a blessing.”
Tip-off time has not yet been announced, but the Utes will play Friday at the Huntsman Center. If they win, they’ll face the winner of the North Carolina State – Princeton game on Sunday for the right to go to the Sweet 16.
Utah has not played since March 2nd since the Utes got upset by Washington State in the Pac-12 Tournament, eliminating them from contention for a #1 seed.
“The last week has been long, not in a bad way, just you don’t know who you’re playing,” said Roberts. “You don’t know when you’re playing, you don’t know what your seed will be, so there’s a lot of question marks people asking a lot of questions. I think our team has done a really good job of staying focused and staying in the moment.”
Gardner-Webb finished first in the Big South Conference this season with an undefeated 18-0 conference record and won the Big South Tournament. The Bulldogs finished the year with a record of 29-4. This is Gardner-Webb’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
This will be the first meeting between these two schools in program history.