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No. 1 Stanford rolls past Utah women’s basketball, but coach Lynne Roberts choosing to focus on positives

Cardinal remain atop the Pac-12 at 11-0; Utes fall to 2-8 in conference play

Stanford forward Ashten Prechtel (11) defends against Utah forward Peyton McFarland (42) in the first half during an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The University of Utah women’s basketball registered a team GPA of 3.43 for the fall semester. That mark was the highest in program history, higher the department-wide GPA of 3.39, so Utes head coach Lynne Roberts acted accordingly.

The team went through every player’s GPA and gave a standing ovation for every player. Roberts called that action “silly and fun,” but there was a point being made in that moment.

In this weird, unpredictable, unorthodox basketball season, every positive moment needs to be acknowledged. Everything done well should be celebrated, whether that’s a basketball game or doing well in the classroom.

Utah fell to No. 1 Stanford on Friday afternoon, 82-54, at the Huntsman Center. The game was tied at 8 early, but the Cardinal (11-0, 8-0 Pac-12) ripped off a 15-0 run over 7:11 between the first and second quarters, and that was mostly that.

Roberts, though, has been quite vocal over the last few months that she has been able to find perspective during a difficult year, and that was the case on Friday.

“It’s not acceptable all the time, and I think I’ve been pretty clear that it’s not acceptable,” Roberts said of moral victories. “They know that, too. These guys are competitors, but this year has been really hard. To lead a team through all of this, it’s really hard. I’ve said it before, I hate losing more than anybody that I’ve ever met and I’m not happy to lose today, but I need to have perspective, and I need my team to have perspective.”

The basketball life of a Pac-12 team on the women’s side is a continuous battle to stay afloat. The league has five teams ranked in the latest Associated Press Top 25 and a sixth receiving votes. Of the five ranked teams, four of them are ranked in the top 11, and Utah has lost to them all.

On the flip side, the Utes dealt with a COVID-19 stoppage around Thanksgiving. It emerged from that with a season-opening loss to then-No. 10 Oregon, but rallied two days later for a significant program win over Oregon State, which was ranked 15th at the time.

In between, it’s been ups and downs, including Friday’s loss to Stanford. Roberts, of course, is not signing up to lose by 28 at home, even if it is to a national championship contender, but she can stomach it and move forward because in her mind, certain parameters were met.

The Utes (3-8, 2-8 Pac-12) were engaged, and weren’t intimidated. They competed, gave it their all, and were beaten by a better team on Friday. To paraphrase Roberts, moral victories are not acceptable all the time, but sometimes they are. Friday, against the nation’s top team, Roberts will take it.

“I don’t want moral victories to become what we’re known for, but this year has been really, really hard and I’m going to pump my team up when they do what we ask them to do, and today they did.”

Utah has a prime opportunity to move past Friday’s loss when winless, last-place Cal visits the Huntsman Center on Sunday (Noon, Pac-12 Networks). Beyond, the grind simply starts all over again. The Utes will play at No. 11 Arizona on Friday night and at Arizona State two days later. They lost both ends of a weekend set to the Arizona schools last month in Salt Lake City, including a 77-60 decision to the Wildcats, who were ranked No. 6 at the time.

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