Utah women’s basketball’s Alissa Pili named Pac-12 Player of the Year, Lynne Roberts Coach of the Year

The third-ranked Utes are 25-3, having claimed a share of their first Pac-12 regular-season championship over the weekend.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes forward Alissa Pili (35) as Utah hosts Washington, NCAA basketball in Salt Lake City on Friday, Feb. 10, 2023.

The University of Utah women’s basketball team moving through uncharted waters this season also applies to individual awards.

Fourth-year Utes junior forward Alissa Pili was named Pac-12 Player of the Year on Tuesday morning, as voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches.

A transfer from USC, Pili leads the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.6 points per game on a league-best 59.9% shooting from the floor. Her 45.8% shooting from 3-point range is good for No. 2 in the conference, while residing inside the league’s top 20 in free throw percentage (77.8%) and rebounding (5.5 per game). Pili’s 16 20-point games are the most in the Pac-12 this season.

Alongside Pili, Lynne Roberts was Pac-12 Coach of the Year after shepherding the Utes to a share of their first Pac-12 regular-season championship, having clinched that on Saturday via an 84-78 victory over Stanford on Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. At 25-3 overall, the Utes are three wins shy of tying the program single-season record for wins with 28, accomplished by Eliane Elliott’s 2000-01 team, which went 28-4 and advanced to the Sweet 16.

Roberts, now in her eighth season at Utah after spending the previous nine at Pacific, is one of 15 candidates on the late-season watch list for Naismith Coach of the Year. That list will be cut to 10 on March 8, with the winner announced on March 29 at the Final Four in Dallas.

The 16-member All-Pac-12 team included Pili, now a two-time honoree after earning the distinction as a freshman at USC in 2020, and sophomore guard Gianna Kneepkens, another two-time honoree. Pili (2020) and Kneepkens (2022) are both former Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honorees.

Third-year sophomore guard Kennady McQueen and sophomore forward Jenna Johnson were both named honorable-mention All-Pac-12.

Winners of 10 of its last 11 dating back to a Jan. 20 loss at the Cardinal, second-seeded Utah will open play at the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas on Thursday in a quarterfinal (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) against the winner of Wednesday’s first-round game between No. 7 seed Washington State and 10th-seeded Cal. The championship game, and a potential third meeting with the top-seeded Cardinal, is scheduled for Sunday afternoon (3 p.m., ESPN2).

Utah heads to Las Vegas this week as a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and is a mortal lock at this point to host the first two rounds at the NCAA Tournament as one of the top-16 overall seeds. Should the Utes ultimately hold onto a 1-seed and win their first two games, they are likely headed to the Seattle regional. For the first time this season, the women’s tournament is moving to a two-host format instead of the usual four. The other host along with Seattle is Greenville, S.C.