I thought we did a nice job of battling back, and by the end of the third, we had some momentum, and then they (Stanford) scored eight unanswered out of the jump, and that was the game. —Utah head coach Lynn Roberts

SALT LAKE CITY — To upset the women’s basketball juggernaut that is the Stanford Cardinal, teams need to start fast and finish strong.

The Utah Utes did neither and suffered a familiar fate.

The Utes, who have struggled in Pac-12 play after beginning the season 12-0, battled back-and-forth through the middle of the game but couldn’t overcome a sluggish start to beat the 13th-ranked Cardinal on Friday night.

Karlie Samuelson scored 14 points for Stanford as it handed Utah women’s basketball team its third straight setback on Friday night at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, 77-58.

The Utes shot just 34 percent from the field and turned the ball over 14 times in the loss. After the defeat, Utah head coach Lynn Roberts said she was proud of her team and saw improvement over previous games.

“I thought our effort was better, we did a lot of things better (than in previous games),” Roberts said. “Much better effort today, they did a much better job rebounding in the second half.”

Stanford opened up the game on a 5-0 run which was halted by an elbow jumper by Tanaeya Boclair for Utah’s first points of the game. The Utes responded to the Cardinal’s opening surge with a run of their own. Utah held Stanford scoreless for over two minutes, but a Karlie Samuelson 3-pointer gave the Cardinal the lead back. Utah turned the ball over four times within the span of two minutes, while Stanford built a 10-point lead. Utah was held scoreless for four minutes before Megan Jacobs broke the drought with a layup. The first quarter ended with Stanford up 20-9.

“The first quarter, we had eight turnovers, took a couple bad shots, and that’s all Stanford needs,” Roberts said.

The Utes shut down the Cardinal offense to start the second quarter, allowing Stanford to score only four points in the opening three minutes of the period. After shooting just 20 percent from the floor in the first quarter, Utah shot 39 percent from the field in the second quarter. The Utes closed the Cardinal lead to as little as five but didn’t make a field goal from 3:34 until the end of the half, going into the locker room down 35-24.

Out of halftime, both teams started sluggishly. In the first three minutes of the second half, Utah and Stanford combined for five points. With six minutes left in the third quarter, a 3-pointer by Daneesha Provo and a jumper by Emily Potter cut the Cardinal lead to six, which would be as close as the Utes would get to overtaking Stanford in the third quarter. The period would close with Stanford up eight points after a buzzer-beater 3-pointer by Erika Bean.

“I thought we did a nice job of battling back, and by the end of the third, we had some momentum, and then they (Stanford) scored eight unanswered out of the jump, and that was the game,” Roberts said.

The Cardinal opened the fourth quarter with a pair of triples, pushing their lead to 14 points. Alanna Smith knocked down Stanford’s’ third 3-pointer of the quarter with seven and a half minutes remaining in the fourth, giving the Cardinal a 61-46 lead.

Stanford outscored Utah 27-16 in the final quarter of play, with Smith leading the way for the Cardinal, scoring six points in the period.

“The fourth quarter just kind of killed us,” Roberts said. “I don’t know if we ran out of gas or what happened, but things just fell apart in the fourth.”

Up next, the Utes face California on Sunday at the Huntsman Center. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.

Twitter: @JoeAColes