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It was a loss that builds confidence. A loss that told the Utah women's basketball team that it can play with almost anyone.
Stanford, the nation's No. 3 team, defeated the Utes 62-53 on Friday night before 2,012 at the Huntsman Center. But it wasn't before Utah gave the Cardinal a stern test.
The Utes drew within a point in the second half, and within three points on two occasions. They rebounded with Stanford, played stout defense and at no point did the game really get away from them.
"We look at this as a game where we can take a lot away from," said junior point guard Janita Badon. "To play with that caliber of team, with this young a team, we feel like we can really play with anyone. We're very encouraged about our performance."
Ultimately, Stanford wore the Utes down with its size in the post and on the perimeter. The Cardinal put three players in double figures, led by All-America candidate Jeanette Pohlen's game-high 19. In the second half, Stanford punched the ball inside and got results, either scoring or getting to the foul line on nearly every post-up.
Utah fought back until midway through the second half, when Stanford stretched its lead to 62-51.
The Utes got a game-high 14 points from Michelle Harrison, the former Mountain View star who played at Stanford and transferred. Harrison was especially potent in the second half, scoring all of her points. "It was an emotional game for me," Harrison said. "I was glad that I was finally able to hit some shots. But I always expect more from myself, and it's disappointing that we weren't able to come away with the win."
With a better first half, the Utes may have gotten a win. But Utah shot 19 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes and scored just 15 points. The Ute defense held the Cardinal to 23 first-half points.
"I thought it was a case of nerves," Utah head coach Anthony Leverets said. "Anytime you play a team like that, it's going to take an adjustment. I thought we were playing well, but we just didn't make shots in the first half."
Story lines Cardinal too much for Utes
R The Utes lose their first game of the season.
• Utah scores just 15 first-half points.
• Stanford pulls away with a 14-5 second half run.