NCAA Tournament: Utah Utes women’s basketball overwhelms Arkansas in first round

The Utes, who are appearing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, draw the Texas-Fairfield winner on Sunday in Austin

Utah guard Gianna Kneepkens (5) drives around Arkansas guard Makayla Daniels, right, during the first half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA women's tournament, Friday, March 18, 2022, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The University of Utah women’s basketball team began its first NCAA Tournament in 11 years on Friday afternoon by missing a pair of layups vs. the University of Arkansas.

From that point forward, there wasn’t a whole lot of errant shooting from the Pac-12′s highest-scoring offense.

The Utes ripped off the first 10 points of the game, built a first-half lead that reached as many as 20, and cruised past the Razorbacks, 92-69, for a first-round win in a game played at the Erwin Center at the University of Texas.

Utah (21-11) will face the winner of another Friday first-round game, Texas-Fairfield, on Sunday in the round of 32. The winner there is off to the Spokane Regional next weekend.

A layup and a left-wing 3-pointer from Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Gianna Kneepkens were sandwiched around another triple from Kennady McQueen for an 8-0 lead at the 8:26 mark of the first quarter. A pair of free throws from Kelsey Reese, starting in place of second-year freshman forward Peyton McFarland, capped the 10-0 burst, but the Utes didn’t let up. Reese finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Already up eight after one, McQueen scored eight points in the second quarter, when the Utes shot 9 for 15 from the floor, including 4 for 6 from deep. McQueen’s second triple of the quarter extended the Utes to a 14-point lead at 30-16 with 7:21 before halftime.

McQueen led four Utes in double figures with a game-high 20 points on 6-for-9 shooting from deep to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Dry Gylten accounted for a season-high 11 of Utah’s 20 assists, which came on 32 made baskets.

The Razorbacks hung around for much of the third quarter, getting to within 10 on two occasions, but each time they appeared ready to make it a game, Utah had an answer.

A McQueen triple from the right wing capped a six-point Utes spurt across 60 seconds after Arkansas had cut the lead to 10. Later, Palmer knocked down a layup, Ines Vieria hit her only 3-pointer of the game, and Utah took a 68-52 lead into the fourth quarter.

Vieira’s triple was Utah’s 11th of the game as it finished 15 for 31 from 3-point range, part of a 51.6% shooting effort for the night.