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Utah women’s basketball: Kiana Williams scores 18 as Utes fall to No. 1 Stanford

SHARE Utah women’s basketball: Kiana Williams scores 18 as Utes fall to No. 1 Stanford

The Utah Utes and Stanford Cardinal fight for the ball during a women’s basketball game at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.

Annie Barker, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Virtually everything had to go right for the Utah Utes to have a chance of beating top-ranked Stanford Friday afternoon.

The coronavirus pandemic has not done college teams any favors, and Utah coach Lynne Roberts was hoping for a miracle at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Instead most everything went Stanford’s way and the Cardinal claimed an 82-54 Pac-12 Conference win.

A famous Utah snowstorm? Nowhere. Stanford was unrattled on this road trip by 50-degree weather outside that resembled California’s South Bay Area more than the Wasatch Front.

Inside the arena, a capacity crowd would have been needed to encourage an upset, but even masked fans are not allowed this season, and they missed a rare performance by a No. 1 team. Another unique highlight was the halftime entertainment, which consisted of a group of young men spraying and scouring the player’s chairs with cleaning solution to keep the arena as antiseptic as possible.

During the game, the pinnacle was the talented, undefeated Stanford squad that boasts nine players 6-feet or taller, and the smaller women who were deadly 3-point shooting experts.

Kiana Williams led the way. Playing only 21 minutes, she scored 18 points, making 6 of 10 3-pointers. Hannah Jump was 5 of 10 from long range for 15 points. Inside, Ashten Prechtel and Lacie Hull had 14 apiece as Stanford moved to 11-0 overall and 8-0 in league. 

Stanford also improved to 28-1 against Utah all-time and kept that streak going, thanks mostly to a 15-0 run to end the first quarter and a 16-1 spurt to start the third stanza.

“They are the best team in the country,” Roberts said. “They make you work for everything and they are hard to score on. Our kids battled, but we didn’t shoot well.”

Utah actually was respectable (18 of 44) from the field, but made just 3 of 16 3-pointers. Kennady McQueen’s marksmanship was one of the few bright spots, but the whole team needed to be on target to have a chance. By comparison, Stanford was 14 of 36 from long range and, with a decided height advantage, won the rebounding battle and every other statistic.

Afterward, the Utes quickly looked to rebound against their next opponent, Cal, who will come in Sunday as the only team below Utah in the standings. With the season about half finished, taking the league crown isn’t likely an option and Roberts said she is trying to avoid pondering moral victories.

“I don’t want that to be what we’re known for,” she said. “For us, everything has changed and we have to look for the bright spots.”

Among them were her two Utah recruits: McQueen, a freshman from North Summit High, and Corner Canyon’s Kemery Martin.

Martin was in the starting lineup and led the Utes with 11 points. She didn’t shoot much but showed a lot of hustle that helped her make 5 of 6 free throws. McQueen came off the bench and also provided a spark that netted her 10 points.

“McQueen was fearless, and Kemery kept us in it in the first half,” Roberts said. “McQueen is a fighter. She got a lot of confidence today playing against the best team in the country.”

Before Sunday’s contest, though, the Utes must return to reality, and that includes preparing for games without the normal scouting reports available, and the players are trying to avoid feeling underappreciated and disillusioned by a college career that consists mostly of schoolwork and practice, and not much of a social calendar.

“This year has been really hard on all of us. … We have to test these kids (coronavirus) all the time and one little slip up means they’re out for two weeks,” Roberts said.

“Playing games is all they have to look forward to and we have to put this season into perspective. If we focus on ourselves and give our best effort, everything else will take care of itself.”

Not everything went right for the Utes this time and Stanford left with another win. The Cardinal will hope to avoid a snowstorm and a perfect effort by Colorado next.