A Magical Run Ends as Utah Falls to Stanford in Pac-12 Finale


Rachel Rydalch

The Utah women’s basketball team warms up before taking on Lipscomb University at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Nov. 10, 2021. (Photo by Rachel Rydalch | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Eric Jensen, Sports Writer


A tremendous year for Utah women’s basketball will continue after the Pac-12 Tournament finals as Utah falls to Stanford 73-48.

The Utes’ Cinderella run ended at the hands of a smothering defense as their effort and determination were not enough to get past the second best team in the country. The Utes played one of their best halves of the year, only trailing at half by two, but ultimately Stanford showed why they are Stanford and put on the defensive clamps and running away with the fourth quarter.

Utah shot the ball 15 times in the final frame and only made two of those shots. Most every one of those fifteen shots was heavily contested by a strong Stanford defense that despite a third quarter run by the Utes, never allowed Utah to get back in the game.

The Utes had a bad night turnover wise. Head coach Lynne Roberts, despite positive trends in numbers, has harped the Utes needed to be better turning the ball over less. This is the type of game that reinforces that — the Utes only turned the ball over 12 times, less than their season average, but Stanford only gave the ball up six times and it ended up being a huge difference in the game.

Stanford had three players with 15 points or more in the win. The Ute’s high-scoring freshwomen Gianna Kneepkens and Jenna Johnson never got going in this game. The two combined for only five points; those are not positive numbers for a team that has relied heavily on its young phenoms down the stretch.

Brynna Maxwell stepped into a leadership position and ended up leading the way with 16 points. It makes sense that the veteran Maxwell would lead the way in scoring in such a pivotal game, the Utes had a tremendously young starting lineup and this was the first championship game the entire roster had ever played in.

The Utes now get set for selection Sunday. With their tremendous Pac-12 Tournament run, some experts expect they will be a seven seed in the upcoming March Madness tournament.

First Half

There were moments in the first half where Utah looked like they might fall too far behind to recover. These were only moments though. As a whole, the half went just about as well as the Utes could have planned it to go. Utah trailed at half, 32-30.

Utah’s day shooting the three did not start off on a positive note, in the first quarter the Utes only provided 2-6 from three.

However, shooting improved and the Utes ended the first half shooting 6-11 from the three-point line. A large swath of that coming from Dasia Young’s strong 2-3 from three-point range. Young would finish the half as Utah’s leading scorer with nine points.

The Stanford response to Utah’s three-point game was to shoot more of their own, a strategy that didn’t take well as the Cardinal shot 4-13 from the three-point line in the first half.

Stanford’s rebounding game was tremendous. The Cardinal dominated the offensive glass especially in the first half and led rebounding 17-13 at half.

The story of this game at halftime was the defensive resilience put up by the Utes who were at one point down by as many as 14 points. The defense, as it has all tournament, tightened and a solid shooting performance in the second quarter that saw Dru Gylten drain one from the logo at mid-court helped the Utes fight back within two.

The Utes’ turnover issues slowed as well which was helpful as after a five-turnover first frame in which Stanford converted points off said turnovers, the Utes stabilized to finish the half with their average seven turnovers.

For Stanford, it is easy to see why Cameron Brink is the Pac-12 defensive player of the year — her length and defensive effort simply can’t be matched. She reminds the untrained basketball eye of a more offensively proficient Rudy Gobert, the Utah Jazz’s star center.

Haley Jones led Stanford in scoring in the first half though, posting 13 points.

Second Half

The story of the third quarter was Stanford getting a lead, building the lead, and looking like they might run away with it, until they don’t.

The Utes shot poorly in the third frame going 5-18 from the field. With a late run though, the Utes fought to keep the lead within ten to close out the quarter.

Utah’s freshwomen notably disappeared from the game, but that’s where veteran grip stepped up.

Brynna Maxwell has been a consistent leader on this team for the past two years and took over the third scoring nine points in the period.

For Stanford, Lexie Hull began to take over the game scoring several buckets to start the fourth quarter, and in a blink the Cardinal led the game 67-46 as Stanford started to pull away in dominating fashion.

Within the first six minutes of the fourth the Utes went 0-4 from three-point land and only made one of nine shots — this due to Stanford’s constant and brutal defensive pressure that never allowed Utah to get quality looks at the bucket.

Stanford ultimately pulled away in the end. Jones ended with 19 points, Brink with 16 and Hull with 15.


[email protected]