By JANIE McCAULEY
STANFORD, Calif. — When freshman point guard and Carondelet alum Talana Lepolo went down in the first quarter with an ankle injury, Stanford had to adjust in a hurry against a top conference opponent.
Indya Nivar, another reliable freshman, took over running the offense and the Cardinal’s veteran post players did the rest.
Cameron Brink had 25 points, 14 rebounds and three blocked shots, Haley Jones added 25 points, 12 boards and a pair of blocks, and No. 4 Stanford bounced back from a loss at USC by beating eighth-ranked Utah 74-62 on Friday night.
“Every disappointment is a blessing,” Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer said of seeing Nivar steady the team.
Hannah Jump made her first five shots and scored 13 points. Nivar had four points and three assists in 27 minutes.
“It’s always hard seeing a teammate go down,” Nivar said. “For me this whole season (it’s) just staying ready.”
Stanford (18-2, 6-1 Pac-12) earned its 18th straight home win against conference opponents. The Cardinal dropped two spots in this week’s AP Top 25 poll after a 55-46 loss at USC on Sunday that snapped a 12-game winning streak, a 39-game unbeaten run against conference foes and a 51-game winning stretch facing unranked teams.
“I think our team had something to prove to ourselves and what better opportunity than against a team like Utah,” VanDerveer said. “We have a lot of teams in the Pac-12 that are tournament teams and they’re a tournament team.”
Alissa Pili scored 25 points and Gianna Kneepkens had 19 for Utah (15-2, 5-2), which had previously lost at Colorado on Jan. 6. Utah shot 3 for 13 from deep in the first half to fall behind 41-32.
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Former 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 draft pick in 2005 out of Utah, was at Maples Pavilion cheering on the Utes.
The Utes have never beaten a top-five opponent and had been scoring 86.8 points per game — among the best in the nation — but managed just 10 in the second quarter and 12 over the final 10 minutes.
Stanford hasn’t allowed more than 77 points in a game since the end of the 2019-20 season, with its only other loss so far this season a 76-71 overtime defeat to No. 1 South Carolina on Nov. 20.
“Until people knock off Stanford they’re still at the top and we’re all chasing them,” Utah coach Lynne Roberts said.
The Utes jumped ahead 10-2 and 12-5 before Stanford’s 7-0 run over a 1:15 spurt.
Stanford’s players wore No. 3 emblems on their “Human Athlete” warmup shirts in support of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin, who is recovering after he went into cardiac arrest on the field in a game at Cincinnati on Jan. 2.
“It was something that was really special to our team that I think is important just to cross all athletes worldwide just to show that somebody like Damar Hamlin at this instant it’s more than playing your sport — it’s your health, it’s your mental well-being, it’s everything,” Jones said.
Lepolo fell midway through the first quarter and was able to walk off the court on her own but didn’t play again. She returned to the bench late in the period without a shoe on her left foot and a big ice bag on the ankle, then was in a walking boot after halftime.
Utah: The Utes moved up two spots in this week’s poll to match the highest ranking in program history and their 10 straight weeks in the poll are their most ever. Utah had been 2-0 against ranked opponents, the team’s first time beating multiple ranked teams in the same season since 2005-06. … The Utes have scored 64 or fewer points in all but two meetings with Stanford since 2007. … They shot 5 of 26 on 3s.
Stanford: Junior G Agnes Emma-Nnopu moved into the starting lineup in place of Kiki Iriafen. … Brink reached 66 blocks for the season and she has swatted at least one shot in every game. She had 88 as a freshman and 91 last season. … Stanford leads the all-time series vs. Utah 31-1 including the last eight in the series all by double digits. The Cardinal have scored at least 68 points in every matchup since 2016. … Stanford is 11-1 at home.
Utah: At California on Sunday night.
Stanford: Hosts Colorado on Sunday to continue a four-game homestand.