Third quarter surge helps Stanford put away up-and-coming Utah, 72-52
PALO ALTO, Calif. — No. 9 Stanford (12-3, 2-1 Pac-12) kept visiting Utah (11-3, 2-1 Pac-12) at bay after a close first half to earn a 72-52 win Friday night at Maples Pavilion. Led by four players in double figures, the Cardinal’s depth and defense were keys to putting a halt to the upset-minded Utes.
“People were very focused, I thought we worked really hard and we had a lot of great contributions off the bench,” said Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer.
Junior guard Lili Thompson and sophomore guard Brittany McPhee contributed 16 points each for the Cardinal. McPhee also pulled down five rebounds. Junior guard Karlie Samuelson adding 13 points on 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Junior forward Erica McCall scored 11.
The win was a boost for Stanford after an abysmal performance at Arizona State last Monday in which the Cardinal only scored 31 points, the lowest in program history.
“I don’t think we sulked, or as Tara would say, throw ourselves a pity party,” said junior guard Briana Roberson about the aftermath of the defeat and coming home to prepare for Utah. “I think we just moved forward.”
In the first quarter, the Utes were in control at the outset, earning the tip and scoring the first five points of the contest. The visitors did not trail Stanford until the last second of the period after Utah senior guard Katie Kuklock fouled Cardinal sophomore guard Brittany McPhee. After making both of her free throws, McPhee and Stanford went into the second quarter with a 13-12 lead.
The game continued to be a back and forth battle in the second period. Stanford only outscored Utah by one point, 17-16 in those ten minutes. At the break, the Cardinal held a slim 30-28 lead
The third quarter was the difference-maker for Stanford. While Utah redshirt sophomore forward Emily Potter hit the first shot of the quarter to tie the game up, Stanford answered by going on a 13-4 run to earn a 12-point lead with six points from McPhee in that stretch. That run was key to Stanford outscoring Utah 25-12 in the third quarter.
“We wanted to run more and we got out in transition better,” said VanDerveer about the third quarter performance of her squad. “The second half was when (Brittany McPhee) really got us going. She got out in her lane, she was rebounding and getting on the glass, working hard.”
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“I just came in focusing on the team,” said McPhee. “because that was the emphasis before the game. So I just wanted to do whatever would help us win.”
For Utah the third quarter was marred by impatience on offense.
“You have to give credit to Stanford in that third quarter,” said Utah head coach Lynne Roberts. “I thought they did just a really good job of executing on both ends of the floor. I thought we did exactly what we talked about not doing in terms of taking quick shots. In the first half when we were patient on offense, good things were happening.”
Roberts called the third quarter a “gut punch” and she knew Stanford would be ready for them after the defeat at Arizona State: “We also knew after their tough loss, it’d be a tough time to play them.”
Stanford also kept Potter in check. She is Utah’s leading scorer and rebounder. She came into the game averaging a double-double of 17.3 points per game and 12.3 rebounds per contest. She finished with nine points, four rebounds and three assists.
Junior guard Paige Crozon paced Utah with 16 points that included making 4-of-5 three pointers. She also pulled down five rebounds. Overall, the Utes were 7-of-14 from 3-point range (50.0 percent), compared to a 35.0 percent mark (7-20) for the Cardinal.
Crozon’s prowess from three-point land was a cause for concern for Stanford and according to VanDerveer, something the team talked about at half time.
“We were working really hard not to let her get those looks,” said VanDerveer. “We didn’t work hard enough in the first half.”
While Utah did not win the contest, the program is experiencing a great start to the season under new head coach Lynne Roberts. The Utes began Pac-12 play with back-to-back wins, beating Washington and Washington State at home.
“I think they might surprise some people,” said VanDerveer about her opponents who were in 11th in the preseason Pac-12 polls. “I don’t see them finishing 11th, but at this point, but nobody looks like an 11th place team so early.”
Roberts is happy that Utah players have bought in to her coaching style in her short time with them and her emphasis on being competitive every game and playing tough.
“These are good kids. They want to win and be successful and compete. They’re proud to be at Utah and play at Utah.”
Both teams are back in action on Sunday with Stanford hosting Colorado at noon PT and Utah playing across the Bay at Cal at 2 p.m. PT. Colorado (5-9, 0-3) lost to Cal (10-4, 1-2) Friday night, 64-35 holding the Buffs scoreless in the second quarter.
- McPhee more than doubled her season average, pouring in 16 points off the bench for the Cardinal. The sophomore is averaging 13.7 points in her first three Pac-12 contests.
- Stanford is now 19-0 all-time against Utah, and has won the last seven matchups by 20.0 points.
- Roberson, who had started the previous 14 games, came off the bench on Friday to deliver a career-high eight assists against one turnover.
- With the win, Stanford avoided dropping below .500 in conference play for the first time since 2001, when VanDerveer’s squad lost three of its first four league games.