With a 73-60 win over Tennessee in Knoxville, the Stanford women’s basketball team closed out a successful two-game visit to the East Coast on Saturday. The road trip cemented the team’s position at the top of the national rankings, with wins over the No. 10 and No. 21 schools, Tennessee and South Carolina, respectively.
The result also marked the first win in the Thompson-Boling Arena for the No. 1 Cardinal (11-0) in 16 years, since a 82-65 victory in the 1996-97 season, and gave the Lady Volunteers (7-3) their first home loss of the year. It was also Tennessee’s second straight loss to a top-three opponent, having lost 76-53 to No. 3 Baylor on Tuesday.
Stanford junior forward Chiney Ogwumike extended her streak of double-doubles to eight straight contests with 21 points and 19 rebounds, breaking her career record of 18 boards set against California last year. Three other Cardinal starters also reached double figures in points — sophomore guard Amber Orrange, sophomore guard Toni Kokenis and senior forward Joslyn Tinkle, with 14, 11 and 10, respectively, and sophomore forward Bonnie Samuelson scored 11 off the bench. Samuelson was 3-for-3 from behind the arc.
In response, four Tennessee starters hit double figures: freshman forward Bashaara Graves, junior guard Meighan Simmons, sophomore Cierra Burdick and sophomore point guard Ariel Massengale, with 15, 12, 11 and 11, respectively, and Graves grabbed 12 boards to get a double-double of her own.
While Stanford had struggled to make, and keep, a lead three days before against South Carolina, it opened this contest by scoring the first six points. Though Tennessee pushed hard and came back not just once but many times throughout the game, playing to the advantage of a loud home crowd, the gap continued to stretch out. By the first-half break, Stanford lead by 12 points and though in the second half the Lady Vols narrowed a 19-point deficit to just nine, the Card successfully broke the momentum of the home team every time it needed to.
Tennessee struggled in the first half and Stanford’s defense effectively forced it to shoot from outside, where it missed its first 12 attempts from behind the arc. In comparison, Stanford managed to effectively break through the home team’s man-to-man defense, scoring 14 points in the paint. Though the Lady Volunteers pressed hard to harry the Cardinal offense, when it became harder to get inside, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer deployed Samuelson, who immediately hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
After the break, the contest was more even, with Stanford only just edging Tennessee 40-39 in the second period. Three of the Cardinal’s starters got into foul trouble, senior Mikaela Ruef finishing the game with four and Orrange and Kokenis with four and three, respectively, and having to temporarily take players out of the game disrupted Stanford’s rhythm. Orrange, for example, led the team with six of its total 15 assists, but sat out for a full six minutes with 9:35 remaining after picking up her fourth foul.
Stanford will next return home to Maples for its third straight contest against undefeated, ranked teams, facing No. 2 Connecticut on Dec. 29. In the three years that these two teams have regularly played each other over the winter break, neither has managed to win on the road, and the last time the Huskies visited Maples, the Card ended their record-setting 90-game winning streak with a 71-59 victory.
This time around, there will be just as much at stake in front of a sellout crowd: the chance to end start the new year still unbeaten, Stanford’s 82-game undefeated record at home and the No. 1 ranking.