SALT LAKE CITY — For the second game in a row, the Utah women’s basketball team gave a top-ranked team a run for its money.
The Utes fell to No. 4 Stanford, 70-56, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center on Sunday afternoon just two days after suffering a five-point loss to seventh-ranked California. Meanwhile, the Cardinal extended its conference winning streak to 80 games and is now 15-0 against Utah.
“(I am) really proud of my team’s effort this weekend playing against two really good teams,” Utah coach Anthony Levrets said afterward. “I don’t think the final score is indicative of what that battle was out there today.”
Utah (9-4, 0-2) traded baskets with the Cardinal (13-1, 2-0) throughout the first half, taking just a five-point deficit into the locker room. It wasn’t until a four-minute span in the middle of the second half that Stanford ignited a 12-4 run to take its first double-digit lead, 47-37. The 14-point difference in the final score was the only time Stanford led by that many points.
However, just as in the loss to California, the Utes again struggled shooting the ball early on and playing consistent defense late in the game. Utah hit just nine shots and was 25 percent from behind the 3-point line in the first half, and then allowed Stanford to shoot 51.9 percent from the floor in the second half.
“We were shooting just 38 percent (for the game) in our own building,” Levrets said. “Until the very end, we had the pace of the game where we wanted it, and we only shot 31 percent in the first half — and at least half of those were wide open looks.”
Stanford was led by the powerful inside play of junior All-American Chiney Ogwumike, who had 20 points, along with three others who reached double digits: Sara James with 18 points, Amber Orrange with 16, and Joslyn Tinkle with 12. As a team, the Cardinal combined for 19 assists, nine steals and four blocks as it disrupted the Utes’ rhythm in the paint.
Utah had three players in double digits, led by Iwalani Rodrigues with 21. Michelle Plouffe added 10 points and six boards while freshman Paige Crozon scored 11 points along with eight rebounds. Taryn Wicijowski had nine points and six rebounds.
“I told my team (there are) two things we have to understand,” Levrets added. “We can’t have moral victories anymore, we have to start putting some wins together (And) that the conference schedule is two months long. Not that it ever will be easy, but it balances out over the course of two months, and we’ve got to keep our heads up while we continue to get better.”
The Utes now travel to face No. 20 Colorado on Tuesday at 6 p.m. before returning to host Colorado next Sunday in a 3 p.m. start. The Buffaloes (11-2, 0-2) lost to Stanford by 17 points on Friday and to California by four on Sunday.
Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org