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College Hoops: Alissa Pili nets 35 in NCAA Tournament to break own state record, becomes first Alaskan with 700-point season

by | Mar 26, 2024 | Basketball, Cover Story

In a season defined by records, Alissa Pili’s final bucket was the chef’s kiss.

The University of Utah women’s basketball team’s two-time All-American out of Anchorage drilled a 3-pointer in the final seconds of Monday’s 77-66 loss to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to give her 35 points – the most by an Alaskan in March Madness history.

The 6-foot-2 former Alaska player of the year broke her own record of 34 points on her way to extending her own Utah single-season scoring record and becoming the first Alaska player (man or woman) to surpass 700 points.

Pili, a projected first-round draft pick in next month’s WNBA Draft, dazzled in her college swan song as she made 12-of-20 field goals and 7-of-7 free throws to go with seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot.

She also showcased some of her trademark tough finishes by fighting through contact, sacrificing her body and displaying a lethal left hand.

Pili, of Dimond High fame, finished the season with 727 points (21.4 ppg) to break Alaska’s previous single-season record for D1 players of 685 set by former Nebraska All-American Kelsey Griffin of Eagle River in 2019-10. Former Oregon All-American Ruthy Hebard of Fairbanks is third with 652, followed by Pili’s 643 from last season, her first with the Utes after transferring from USC.

The top Alaska men’s marks are 638 by former Duke All-American Carlos Boozer of Juneau and 622 by former Duke All-American Trajan Langdon of Anchorage.

Pili took her game to new heights at Utah, fulfilling a dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament and elevating herself to premier status as one of most efficient players in the country.

Who could forget her 37-point effort against No. 1-ranked South Carolina that famously led to Dawn Staley saying “It’s impossible to stop her” on ESPN. It was a viral ‘she said what?’ moment.

Pili went from All-Pac-12 at USC to Pac-12 Player of the Year and two-time All-American at Utah. To put a finer point to it, her 727 points in 34 games this season nearly matched her three-year total (795) with the Trojans in 63 games.

Pili finished her NCAA career with 2,165 points, second only to Hebard’s 2,368 among all Alaskans.

Other elite Alaska women such as UConn’s Jessica Moore of Palmer and Hebard made a career out of playing in the NCAA Tournament. Moore played in 20 games and won three national championships while Hebard played in 13 games, went to a Final Four and set the state record with 217 career points in the NCAA Tournament.

Pili spent the first half of her career watching March Madness on TV. But that all changed when she arrived in Salt Lake City, where she’s spearheaded back-to-back appearances for the nationally ranked Utes.

Last year, in her Big Dance debut, she had 33 points in a first-round win over Garnder-Webb for a then-record total by an Alaskan at the NCAA Tournament. The previous record was 26 held by North Pole’s Jeannie Hebert of Miami in 1992 and Griffin in 2008.

That was the standard for the state before Pili broke the mold.

In her next four NCAA Tournament games, she scored 28 against Princeton and 14 against LSU last year before coming back this year to net 26 against South Dakota State and 35 against Gonzaga to rewrite the Alaska record book.

PILI POWER
Most Points NCAA Tournament

35 – Alissa Pili, Utah 2024
33 – Alissa Pili, Utah 2023
28 – Alissa Pili, Utah 2023
26 – Jeannie Hebert, Miami 1992
26 – Kelsey Griffin, Nebraska 2008
26 – Alissa Pili, Utah 2024

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Family of Sponsors

Alaska Airlines | Nicole Johnston | Richard Mize | Advanced Diagnostics, INC | Aktive Soles | Alaska Oil and Gas Association | Aspen Endodontics | Black-Smith, Bethard & Carlson, LLC. | BOSCO's | Coho Financial Group | Continental Auto Group | Don Clary & Judy Besh | Glen Bailey | Invisalign-Ben Ward | JL Properties | Joey Caterinichio & Ja Dorris| Kathleen Navarre | Midas Alaska | Moose's Tooth, Bear Tooth and Broken Tooth Brewing | Perkins Coie - Sarah & A.J. Schirack | R&M Consultants, Inc. | RE/MAX Dynamic Properties Kevin Taylor | Residential Mortgage | Seth Wickersham & Alison Overholt | Taylored Restoration | Korndrop Family Foundation | Arctic Slope Regional Corporation | Replacement Glass | Zareena and Allen Clendaniel | Foley & Pearson | UAA Seawolves | Tony and Carla Slaton Barker | Sportclips Haircuts | Alliance for Support of American Legion Baseball in Alaska | Alice & Gunnar Knapp | Amy and Jason Miller | Burgerfi | Charles Fedullo | Dan Rufner | Darren Lieb | Don Winchester | Donley Family | Dr. Justin Libby, DDS | Firetap | Harlow Robinson | Jason & Shannon Metrokin | Jim & Michelle Hajdukovich | Joe Alston | Kathie Bethard | Krispy Kreme | Kristopher Knauss | Loren Kroon | Mark and Jamie Johnson | Mark Silverman | On the Border | Pete Robinson | Rick Mystrom | Team Heat | Team Moriarty | The Conway Family | Todd Whited | Moria Smith | In memory of Drs. John & Elizabeth Tower | Peter Pounds | Multisport Training of Alaska/Lisa Keller | RSA Engineering

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