Utah’s women’s basketball team stuck to Stanford like the inversion is hanging onto the Wasatch Front. The Utes never really let the Cardinal breathe easily in Sunday’s Pac-12 matchup at the Huntsman Center.
Unfortunately for the Utes, Stanford had enough firepower to elevate itself out of Utah’s grasp, taking a 70-56 victory in front of 1,191 spectators.
The Utes (9-4, 0-2 Pac-12), who were coming off a 55-50 loss to No. 7 Cal on Friday, played the No. 4 Cardinal (13-1, 2-0) closer than many probably expected, with Utah within single digits of Stanford for much of the contest.
But in the end, forward Chiney Ogwumike proved too much for the Utes.
She finished the game with 20 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals.
It was the second big game in a row for Ogwumike, who posted 20 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks in Stanford’s 57-40 victory over No. 20 Colorado on Friday.
Utah forwards Michelle Plouffe and Taryn Wicijowski, who are tied for fourth in the Pac-12 averaging 16.3 points a game, had a rough day going up against Stanford’s sizable lineup. Wicijowski finished with nine points and Plouffe had 10.
Guard Iwalani Rodrigues led the Utes with 21 points.
Rather than being dejected with the back-to-back losses, the Utes were encouraged by their play against the ranked teams.
“We had two tough games this weekend with Cal and Stanford, but it’s only the beginning,” Plouffe said. “It’s a good start for us. We know we can compete with these teams. We came out and did that, and it will give us some confidence going into the next week’s play.”
The Utes play at Colorado on Tuesday, prompting Utah coach Anthony Levrets to joke that “someone must not like Utah,” due to the rigorous schedule.
“I am proud of the team’s effort this weekend,” he said. “I don’t think the score is indicative of what that battle was today. Two things we have to understand is we can’t have moral victories anymore. We have to put some wins together. But we also have to understand the conference schedule is two months long, not a one-week deal, and it will balance out. It’s never easy, but we have to keep our heads up and continue to get better and it will balance out.”
Utah’s last gasp with the Cardinal came when Plouffe made a 3-pointer with five minutes to go to cut Stanford’s lead to 56-50. Ogwumike drove hard to the basket at the other end to put the Cardinal ahead 58-50 with 4:58 remaining. The Cardinal finished the game on a 14-6 run.
As good as Ogwumike was, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer credited Sara James for being the difference in the game. James finished with 18 points, shooting 6-for-8 as she filled in for Toni Kokenis, who missed the game due to illness.
“Every team we play gives us their best effort, and Utah has a nice team with good inside and outside presence,” VanDerveer said. “But for us, when I watch the highlights, we depend on Amber Orrange and Chiney, but Sara James really made the difference.”
No. 4 Stanford 70,Utah 56
R In short • Utah stays close to the Cardinal but never leads after the first minute. Key moment • Stanford’s Amber Orrange makes two free throws with 4:30 remaining to put the Cardinal ahead 60-50.
Key stat • Utah’s Taryn Wicijowski and Michelle Plouffe combine to shoot just 7-for-25.