The injury wasn't all that noticeable, but it was there - team-wide. From Brenda Alcorn to Tanya Zachary. Hurt feelings and sore feet.
The Lady Utes came oh so close to upsetting nationally ranked Stanford (No. 7), 78-74, Saturday night in the Huntsman Center, but as team coach Elaine Elliott put it, " . . . we kept shooting ourselves in the foot."And that they did do. Good play would bring them close, then mistakes would push them back. And so it went all night long.
It didn't start out that way. It appeared like it was going to be the rout of all routs. Stanford couldn't miss a shot or a rebound - offensive or defensive - and Utah couldn't steal either.
Four minutes into the game and Utah was behind 13-1 and didn't appear to have any hope. Then, as if a switch went on, the game turned. Zachary started it with an inside layup followed by a foul and three points.
Then Nikki Kane got into the flow. Then Stanford got out of it. Ten minutes later and Utah was trailing by one - 26-25.
Then came the "shot." Ouch. Mistakes. A bad pass, a hurried shot, a dribble off the foot. And, with a minute and a half to go Stanford was up by eight - 38-30.
Stanford played well throughout. Especially good was Julie Zeilstra, a Utah trained player from Vernal who opted for California for her schooling and basketball. She was a dominating force - especially inside.
Still out of it, however, was Utah team leader Kristi Smith. Two quick fouls and bench time left her zero at the half.
In the second half, it started again. Ouch. Then came a rally, this time led by Smith. Over the final 15 minutes of play she averaged better than a point a minute.
Behind the shooting of Zeilstra (12 for the game), Sonja Henning and Val Whiting , Stanford again went up by 13, 70-57, with four minutes to play.
Was it over? No. Again the Utes bounced back. This time the charge was led by Smith and Zachary. Ever so slowly they whittled at the lead. Finally, with eight seconds to go, Alcorn put in two foul shots to pull the Utes within two - 76-74. A couple of little "ouches," however, by the Utes, brought on the ultimate smart - a loss.
"I wasn't worried," admitted Elliott about the slow start. "We're a good team and I knew we'd made a game of it. We'd do something and get into the flow. We'd make good decision and take good shots. Then we kept shooting ourselves in the foot."
Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer felt it was the defense her team was putting up. "That was the key," she offered. She didn't feel her team was allowed to get totally into the flow, however. The officiating, she felt, was too close. "This year we've only had one player foul out, and tonight we lose three in one game. I think it's eventually going to hurt the Utes. When they get back in a tournament I don't know if they're going to be ready for a physical game."
Elliott felt there were times when her team was ready, but other times when they weren't.
Zachary was the leading scorer with 18, followed by Smith the 17 and Kane with 11.
The Utes will heal their wounds and head for Bozeman to play the University of Montana on Friday.