The Stanford Women’s Basketball Team gave their fans an awesome Christmas present, a 76-70 win over Tennessee. The majority of the game was not as close as the score suggests, with Stanford’s lead a comfortable nine to ten points for most of the game. It wasn’t until the last minute that Tennessee made it interesting.
At the start, Stanford wanted to put Tennessee on notice that they were no longer "The Nice Girls From Stanford." Stanford proceeded to bloody Tennessee’s nose, literally. During a lose ball scramble on of the Tennessee players got inadvertently hit in the face and had to leave the game (didn’t get her name or number). Another fan said after the Tenn player came to the bench she passed out near the tunnel, so not sure what happened.
Well, okay, Stanford didn’t mean to be THAT tough. But there was a fire and a passion in starting freshmen guard Lili Thompson that told Tennessee that Stanford was not backing down. Lili fought hard and made some key steals and scores, elbowing one Tennessee player to the ground during the steal and the subsequent score. Hard to get back up with 6,000 intense fans and one very large Rose-Bowl Bound football team screaming in your face with delight.
And then Lili was all up in their grill and jacked a three early on to put Stanford ahead 13-4! (Okay R just told me to stop trying to be "hip" using young person language). But man, that SWAGGER and that STARE she gave after that three said everything. Lili would make three 3-pointers in Tennessee’s face and had a season high 14 points.
While Lili had the swagger, the scoring and rebounding belonged to Stanford’s all-everything Chiney Ogwumike. After spotting Tennessee the first four points, Chiney singled handedly scored Stanford’s first ten points, and Lili’s afore-mentioned three gave Stanford 13 unanswered points in the first five minutes. Chiney would have a double-double by half time, 18 points and 11 boards. She would finish the game with 32 points and a season high 20 rebounds (credit big Sis Nneka Ogwumike with an assist, as she gave Chiney a long distance pep talk).
Although at times it looked like Stanford’s only play was to lob it into Chiney (And some uncharacteristic missed lobs by the passers), Chiney got some scoring help from Lili and bench player Taylor Greenfield. Taylor also connected with three 3-pointeres, one right before the half to give Stanford a 37-29 lead going into the locker room. The few times Tenn pushed Chiney off the low block, ala UConn, Chiney’s angle was wrong to the backboard and she would miss. Luckily Tenn didn’t do that very much and she could have her way around the glass.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said before the game whoever controls the boards wins the game (I don’t know, we might be paraphrasing, but you get the idea). And Tennessee wasn’t ranked #3 and undefeated going into this game for nothing. They could rebound, too. When Tenn did get an offensive rebound, it was usually a score. Tennessee was ahead in rebounds (I think) in the first half, yet Stanford clamped down better in the second half and outrebounded them 46-40 for the game, Chiney accounting for nearly half of those.
Stanford and Tennessee come together in sisterhood after the game. Photo courtesy of C and R 's shaky smart phone
Hats off to Tennessee’s Meighan Simmons, a senior, who tried her hardest in the second half to will Tenn back to life. She drove hard and quick to the basket to convert or get the foul. She ended up with 15 points, and if she could have sustained that intensity the whole game, who knows. Although not much of a team play to take the ball and shoot every time the ball is in your hands, whether you are open or not. Maybe that is why she was on the bench when Tenn made their run with about three minutes left in the game.
Tennessee came within two with a 1:03 on the clock. Time to cue Amber Orrrrange. The quiet point guard drove the lane, was fouled yet still banked it off the glass. She made the extra point to put Stanford up by five, Mikaela Ruef got a key rebound after that, was fouled, and sank her two as well. Amber Orrange had nine points and five assist and Ruef had a solid eight points and eight boards for the game.
Speaking of free throws, Stanford was 13-21 from the line. You can’t leave eight easy points on the table when you are playing top-ranked teams. C and R know what Stanford will need to practice in their week break before they next play…
Still great win for Stanford; POY candidate Chiney Ogwumike lookin’ good, yet glad to see some others are finding ways to score. Looks like Tara VanDerveer might be set on her 8-9 player rotation for the year.
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