The sellout crowd at Maples Pavilion greeted Pat Summitt with hearty applause and support through a pre-recorded video in which Tara VanDerveer thanked the legendary coach for regularly bringing her Lady Volunteers to play Stanford.
"Pat, we love you, we care about you and we wish you the very best in your battle with Alzheimer's," said the VanDerveer on the video.
Then the Summitt love fest took a backseat to the Nneka Ogwumike superstar showcase soon after the games opening tip.
Stanfords senior star contributed a career-best 42 points and 17 rebounds to the Cardinals 97-80 win over Tennessee. Sophomore Toni Kokenis backed Ogwumike with 26 pointsalso a career best--in No. 4 Stanfords school record 68th consecutive home victory.
Tara said we needed to be more aggressive offensively and I think that was kind of what was slowing us down, Ogwumike said, referring to her coach's criticisms of her team's performance in their first game back from finals on Saturday, a sluggish win over Princeton. (What Tara actually said was that she needed someone other than Ogwumike to step up, but the modest Ogwumike was too modest to put things that way.) But once we figured out what we needed to do on offense, defense came along too.
Summitts Vols took an early 16-7 lead and it appeared that an upset might be in the making. But then VanDerveer repeated the same message she had delivered on Saturday, and the response from her players was immediate. Stanford finished the half on a 41-25 run that was aided by a technical assessed on Tennessee for the rare infraction of having too many players on the court.
Ogwumikes feat came in a physical, fast-moving affair that had both teams pushing the ball in transition and looking for quick scoring opportunities. The senior, a Naismith watch list nominee played 39 minutes and scored half of Stanfords first 72 points as the Cardinal padded a lead that had swelled to double-digits over the final 11 minutes of the game.
The 42-point outburst was four points off the Stanford all-time single-game scoring record of 46 set by Jayne Appel in a 2009 NCAA tournament game against Iowa State. Ogwumike's previous career high was the 38 points she tallied against Oklahoma in the 2010 NCAA National Semifinal.
Kokenis replaced Jasmine Camp, who had injured her left foot in practice last week, in Stanfords starting lineup and buried five three-pointers as well as back-to-back field goals in the Cardinals first-half run.
Chiney Ogwumike, Nnekas sister, contributed 14 points and five rebounds for Stanford (8-1).
"They obviously had a great crowd in here. You have to look at their team, they were very, very strong," wqie Summitt after the game. "Obviously, the Ogwumike sisters are a 1-2 punch that I don't know anyone else in the country that has anything like it."
Tennessees Shekinna Stricklen led the Vols (7-3) with 27 points and Glory Johnson added 18.
The Vols' starting point guard, freshman Ariel Massengale, entered the game midway through the second half after having missed the last three games with a dislocated middle finger on her left hand. She took just one shot and missed it, but did manage to pull down a rebound and dish out an assist in her 11 minutes o
"We have been watching her for the last couple of days," said Tennessee Assistant coach Mickie DeMoss of the decision to start Massengale, who worked out in practice for the first time on Monday. "We weren't sure, playing in this environment, her first game back after being out for 10-12 days, we just wanted to be sure she was ready. We felt like we didn't have to put her in, but as the slippage kept going in the second half, we took our chances (playing her). In practice, she hasn't been full-go. So we were a little hesitant about putting her in."
Tennessees senior wing Shekinna Stricklen led the Vols (7-3) with 27 points and Glory Johnson added 18. The Vols were outrebounded (40-35) and committed five more turnovers than Stanford (13-8). The Cardinal shot 53 percent for the game while Tennessee was over 61 percent in the first half, but cooled considerably after halftime.
The Vols were out-rebounded (40-35) and committed five more turnovers than Stanford (13-8).
The Cardinal shot 53 percent for the game while Tennessee was over 61 percent in the first half, but cooled considerably, to just 37 percent, after halftime. Even so, Stanford, which shot a "mere" 47.5 percent in the opening period won not only the game, but the first half as well, by virtue of having take 16 more shots than the Lady Vols in that span, making nearly half of them.
Throughout the game, Stanfords fans waved red We Back Pat rally towels in support of the Hall of Fame coach who announced in August that she has early onset Alzheimers. But the legendary coach sat quietly as Tennessee was unable to rally late. And after the game, in another show of solidarity, Tennessee and Stanford players joined together at midcourt for a moment of prayer, rather than retreating to their own huddles.
It was a tough game for us. We could never get enough people in the right rhythm, said Summitt. "Im disappointed we didnt have a lot of people step up for us.
Tennessee faces Old Dominion on December 28 in Knoxville in their final tuneup before beginning SEC play. Stanford faces Cal State Bakersfield Thursday.