Before Stanford even got off the bus in Salt Lake City, Cardinal head coach Tara VanDerveer told center Jayne Appel that facing Utah's defense would be tough and that she needed to remain patient.
"I kept that in my mind the whole game, and it helped," said the 6-4 sophomore who led Stanford to an 81-77 double-overtime win against the Utes with 30 points, 20 rebounds and six blocked shots. Appel played the last six minutes of regulation and both overtimes with four fouls.
"I knew I had to stay in the game, especially after Candice (Wiggins) fouled out," she said. "I just thought it's better to give up two points than foul, as crazy as that sounds."
It worked for the team, especially when the perimeter players started making some outside shots. The Cardinal finished the game 4-of-24 from 3-point range.
"I thought we really shot ourselves in the foot," said VanDerveer. "People are going to play us the way Utah did. They're going to double down on Jayne, and somebody has got to make those shots. In the end, we found people who wanted to play defense. I think we just got very tight on the perimeter."
VanDerveer felt the Cardinal players were out of sync most of the game, and she credited Utah for much of that. She commended Appel for her patience and intelligence inside.
"We go into Jayne, and she finishes," she said. "She's the key to our offense. She's big; she's strong and she finishes plays."
The loss was encouraging and gut-wrenching for the Utes as they had the No. 5-ranked Cardinal beat in regulation if they just make one of the five missed free throws in the final few minutes. Instead, Utah, which is now 0-10 against Stanford, finished 18-28 at the line, and Stanford got a little extra time to find its footing in the battle.
Stanford's Melanie Murphy's 3-point shot as time expired sent the game into the first overtime and then senior point guard Leilani Mitchell's layup around Appel with less than one second on the clock sent it into the second overtime.
"We finish some plays, don't make a mistake or two and we win," said Mitchell, who led the Utes with 16 points and four assists. "It's a good learning experience for us."
Junior forward Katie King had the unenviable task of guarding Appel most of the game. She is the biggest player the Layton High graduate has ever faced.
"She's very hard to defend," said King, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. "We were excited to have Stanford come in here and play. They're a great team. We played well, but at the same time, I thought we could also play better."
Utah coach Elaine Elliott was encouraged by what she saw in just the team's second outing.
"We've been the underdog in one game and favored in the other and we've played well in both," she said. "That's a good sign that our kids are willing to play hard, and they don't need special circumstances to get up for a game."
She said the Utes' performance confirmed what she's believed about her players this season.
"We're pretty good early," she said. "And I think we're going to get better."
She knew the Utes would have their work cut out for them with the fifth-ranked squad.
"They're a load to handle, and we don't have near what they have inside, with size and power," Elliott said. "With a team like that, you better put them away when you have the chance. We had too many breakdowns in the second half."
Both coaches were grateful for the competitiveness of the game so early in the season."We play Utah because it will help us get better," VanDerveer said. "I have the utmost respect for Elaine Elliott and her program. I hope playing us will help them improve as well."