After controversial calls in loss to Stanford, Utes coach Lynne Roberts says, ‘I think everyone ... saw what happened’

As Utah loses third game in the last four, frustrations over officiating boil over. Star forward Alissa Pili says Utah gets, “the short end of the stick time after time”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes forward Alissa Pili (35) is stopped by Stanford Cardinal forward Kiki Iriafen (44) with five seconds left in the game as Utah hosts Stanford, NCAA basketball in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.

Alissa Pili continued to cry as the questions came one after the other.

Why wasn’t there a review of a potential shot clock violation on Stanford in the final 30 seconds of the game? Why was Pili’s potential go-ahead drive with four seconds left called a jump ball instead of a foul?

Did the officiating affect the final outcome of a 66-64 Utah loss to the Cardinal?

“I think it is just frustrating when we play our asses off out there,” Pili said as she processed the game’s ending. “We put it all out there, and it just doesn’t go our way. I just feel for this team and the coaches that put so much into it. We get the short end of the stick time after time.”

Pili wasn’t just referencing the end of the Stanford game, but also the loss to Arizona the week before. That time, Utah also came away questioning the officiating in a last-second, 71-70 defeat to the Wildcats.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes forward Dasia Young (34) passes the ball as Utah hosts Stanford, NCAA basketball in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.

It left Pili in tears Friday as she explained her mounting frustration from a week full of close calls, and a season that is slowly slipping away.

Utah is now 1-3 in conference play and near the bottom of the Pac-12. This was the season the Utes were supposed to defend their conference title. Now, it is going to have to claw its way back just to be in the race.

“We have had so much adversity this season so far, just things not bouncing our way,” head coach Lynne Roberts said. “... Once again, last minute, in all kinds of ways, things didn’t go our way.”

The main frustration in the two-point loss to Stanford centered on two calls down the stretch.

The first, with Stanford leading 65-64 with 24 seconds left, Utah nearly forced a shot clock violation. Stanford forward Kiki Iriafen had the ball in her hands with the shot clock winding down. As she went up for the shot, the buzzer went off but officials let the play continue.

Stanford ended up getting the offensive rebound and drained the clock down to the 13-second mark before Utah got it back. They never reviewed whether Iriafen got the ball off in time.

Roberts said she never got an explanation from officials as to why they didn’t review the call.

“But they reviewed it last week at Arizona , the jump ball foul, which is interesting,” Roberts said. “But they didn’t review this one and no explanation. No eye contact [from officials].”

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah coach Lynne Roberts as Utah hosts Stanford, NCAA basketball in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024.

On the next possession, Utah had the ball with four seconds left and a chance to take the lead. Pili drove down the lane. As she went up for the layup, she fell to the ground. Officials called it a jump ball and gave it back to Stanford.

Utah would have to foul and Stanford escaped with a 66-64 win.

“I think everyone here and on TV saw what happened,” Roberts said. “So you don’t need me to say it. I think for the level of play in this league, I do think [the officiating] deserves to be better.”

“... It’s hard. It’s hard. I don’t think I have any power to make any changes to that. It isn’t in my control.”

Utah overcame multiple nine-point deficits in the second half to put itself into position to possibly steal the game.

Guard Maty Wilke had 11 points and two late threes. Jenna Johnson also hit a three as part of her 15 points.

Pili finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Stanford did not score from the field in the final three minutes of the game. But Utah couldn’t capitalize.

“It is obviously just frustrating at the end, coming up short again,” Johnson said.

Utah plays Cal on Sunday and two more top-10 teams the week after. For a team playing without star guard Gianna Kneepkens, it won’t be any easier. It makes a near miss against Stanford more difficult.

“I do think these situations will make you better in March,” Roberts said. “It sucks now. But you don’t win conference championships in January. This is going to make us better. This is going to make us tougher. It is going to make me a better coach. And I’m all for that.”