Alissa Pili’s eyes were red when she walked into the interview room.
The No. 20 Utah Utes women’s basketball team had just got its behind handed to it by the No. 17 Oregon State Beavers. It was a Friday night 58-44 loss at the Huntsman Center where the Utes looked more like feckless than ruthless.
Coach Lynne Roberts had also just finished taking the blame for her team’s poor performance. “Clearly, I didn’t have them ready to go,” she said.
But Pili wasn’t buying that narrative. Not this night. Not on a night when, in a Top 20 matchup with palpable NCAA Tournament seeding implications, the Utes needed to show up. Not a night when one would hope — and might even expect — star players to not only set the tone, but launch it into the stratosphere.
On this night, Pili fell on the sword.
“Personally, I failed as a leader,” the junior forward from Alaska said.
Pili paused to collect herself. She took a deep breath. Then her voice began to shake as she continued.
“I let the frustration get to me,” Pili said. “I wasn’t out there leading my team when they needed it the most. That’s on me as a leader.”
Pili scored 12 points on just 4-of-17 shooting. She added six rebounds and shot 1-of-8 from 3-point range.
Some of Pili’s missed shots were open looks, and several missed uncharacteristically badly. Roberts said the whole team suffered from badly missed shots that were atypical of the Utes.
When asked how she would bounce back from her personal disappointment, Pili said she needs to figure out what the team can do differently on the court. She then put the onus on herself even more pointedly by expressing disappointment in losing 50/50 balls and giving up offensive rebounds.
“Even just playing harder and being an example for the rest of the team,” Pili said. “I just need to be a better leader. I need to step up when we need it.”