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Hoops hysteria greets Utes as they head off to Sweet 16

Posted at 5:17 PM, Mar 22, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — For just the third time in school history, the University of Utah women's basketball team is headed to the promised land of the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16.

Ahead of this weekend's games in South Carolina, fans came out to campus to show their support for the team as they prepared to fly out Wednesday.

With claps and cheers, students, fans and even Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall were at the university for the big sendoff.

"I'm a fan, I'm not just the mayor," said Mendenhall. "This is a historic send off and a historic team, not only for the university of Utah and basketball history, but I think for the entire state of Utah. We're so proud."

After downing both Gardner-Webb and Princeton last weekend, the second-seeded Utes are now set to face third-seeded LSU. A win Friday puts them within a game of reaching the Final Four.

"They're so fun to watch their incredibly high scoring offense, they scored 100 points a couple times this year," said university junior and fan Irena Weed. "Alissa Pili, obviously, she scores the most points every game."

As the team boarded to the bus to the airport, nearly 100 people turned out.

"It's incredibly cool to watch history being made," said Weed.

That history includes the team's first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2006, and the highest seed they've ever received in the tournament.

"You don't see any selfishness that I see," shared Utes fan Ed Felt. "They're happy for each other, it's a big thing."

As a UofU alum, Felt is a regular inside the Huntsman Center when the women hit the hardwood.

"It was great to see how many people showed up for the games, especially on Sunday here in Salt Lake," he said. "There were so many fans here, there were 8,000 fans."

Now, as the team heads east, fans believe they can keep this special season going.

"I think we have a chance, that's why you play the game, I feel our chances as good as anybody in the tournament," said Felt.

Utah and LSU will tip-off Friday at 3 p.m., with the winner advancing to Sunday's game putting them on the brink of the Final Four.