Utah women's basketball: Utes won't let Stanford push them around
The Utah's women's basketball team launched an anti-bullying campaign earlier this week in conjunction with the Salt Lake City Council and other organizations to help spread awareness of bullying, and the message it won't be tolerated.
As far as the Utes (7-6, 0-2) are concerned, there won't be any bullying allowed either on Friday when No. 4 Stanford comes to town for a 6 p.m. tipoff at the Huntsman Center.
The Utes lost their first two conference games to UCLA and USC by an average 12.5 points, but that hasn't stopped them from believing they can win their home conference opener against the Cardinal (13-1, 2-0).
Never mind that Utah hasn't beaten the Cardinal in 16 attempts or that the Cardinal rank first in the Pac-12 in scoring margin (19.1 points per game), field goal percentage (47.2) and field goal percentage defense (33.4), the Utes feel like they can play with the Cardinal.
"We thought we were going to get a big win at USC, but we stubbed our toe at the end of the game and lost it," Utah coach Anthony Levrets said. "But our kids fight hard and they know Stanford is a really, really talented team, but they are excited to get a chance to play them."
Historically, the Utes have slowed Stanford's scoring onslaught, with the Cardinal reaching the 70-point mark only once in the past seven meetings.
Over that stretch the Cardinal have averaged just 64.3 points but have still gotten the better of the Utes thanks to the defense which has held Utah to an average of 48.7 points. The Cardinal are averaging 78.5 points this season.
Levrets said the Utes must play a similar style on Friday as they have in the past, they just need to finish the drill in the final minutes.
"They are very good in the transition, but that is what we work on," he said. "We work hard to take that away from everybody and that's why we've had some success against them with it."
The player who concerns the Utes the most is, Chiney Ogwumike, who became the Pac-12's leading rebounder against Oregon when she grabbed 14 rebounds to give her a career total of 1,284.
Ogwumike is the only player ranked in the national top 10 in scoring (26.6), field goal percentage (62.6), double-doubles (10) and rebounding (11.6).
"Almost half her points come early in the shot clock, so we have to take that easy stuff away from her," Levrets said. "We have to manage that situation, because if you let them score in the 80s or 90s, nobody is going to take them."
As for the Utes, Levrets said his team is close to full strength now after star Michelle Plouffe missed three weeks following a sudden death in her family.
Plouffe averaged 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in the games against UCLA and USC.
"We've had some injuries, too, that have made it hard to keep any continuity, but we are as healthy as we've been all year," Levrets said. "We've been close to getting some good wins this year, but just haven't put enough together.
"This could be the start of something cool for the program," he said of Friday's game.
Utah vs. No. 4 Stanford
P At the Huntsman Center
Tipoff • Friday, 6 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network
Radio • 700 AM
Records • Utah 7-6 (0-2); Stanford 13-1 (2-0)
Series history • Stanford leads 16-0
Last meeting • Stanford, 65-44 (Jan. 25, 2013)
About the Utes • Utah is 5-1 at home this season, with the only loss coming to No. 15 Nebraska on Nov. 15. â¦ Michelle Plouffe's 15-point performance against USC was her 10th double-digit-point game in 11 contests. â¦ Utah outrebounded UCLA and USC 96-70 in its recent losses.
About the Cardinal • This is the first Pac-12 road trip of the year for the Cardinal, who are coming off wins against Oregon and Oregon State. â¦ The only loss was a 76-57 loss to top-ranked Connecticut. â¦ Chiney Ogwumike averaged 32 points and 13.5 rebounds in those wins. â¦ Freshman guard Lili Thompson has averaged 11 points, four assists and 3.5 rebounds in the last four games.