Everyone knew that UConn couldn’t keep winning forever. But with 90 consecutive wins under the Huskies’ collective belt coming into tonight’s game against #8 Stanford and nearly 3 calendar years without a single loss, it would have been crazy to bet against #1 Connecticut in any game. Thank goodness that Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer and her team did exactly that.
Stanford not only beat UConn, but dominated the squad from Storrs, winning by a final of 71-59. UConn never led, shot just 33% from the field, and got 0 points from 2 of its starters. Stanford’s physical style repressed the usually potent Husky offense and held star forward Maya Moore to just 14 points. Moore averages 24 points per game, is widely considered the best player in women’s college basketball, and is the type of athlete who can single-handedly carry her team (see the 2010 National Championship Game). The combination of defenders that VanDerveer stuck on Moore forced the senior phenom to battle through pushes, shoves, and smacks on every play. By halftime, she had become visibly frustrated.
But the biggest story of the game was the excellence of Stanford point guard Jeanette Pohlen. Pohlen led all scorers with 31 points, and also dished out 6 assists and 9 rebounds. Without Pohlen’s performance, Stanford most likely would have lost. Only one other Cardinal player–forward Nneka Ogwumike–scored in double figures for Stanford, and Pohlen alone accounted for 44% of the Card’s points. Pohlen didn’t just play better than any other woman on the floor, but also played the best 40 minutes of her career.
Senior forward Kayla Pedersen was also vital to Stanford’s success, although her stat line does not accurately describe the extent of her contribution to the win. Pedersen scored just 8 points, but did so on nearly 50% shooting. She also created several extra possessions for the Card, and kept several others alive. Pedersen recorded 11 rebounds and 2 steals against a Connecticut team that almost always out-hustles opponents.
Connecticut drops to 12-1 this season, while Stanford improves to 9-2.
Stanford has not lost in Maples Pavilion in 52 straight games. Their last lost came in March 2007, when not a single current Stanford 4-year undergraduate was enrolled on the Farm. With the most talented opponent of the season now defeated, Stanford could win out at home and ensure that the Class of 2011 never saw a home loss in women’s basketball.
Perhaps most encouraging for Stanford fans, students, and alumni was the school’s overwhelming support in Maples Pavilion for the nationally televised game. ESPN commentator Doris Burke described the crowd as “deafening,” and the ESPN team repeatedly mentioned that the game had been sold out for two weeks. It’s no secret that many Americans do not care about women’s basketball or blatantly demean it in public. Congratulations to the Stanford community for supporting this team so enthusiastically. Tonight’s crowd well outdid the typical attendance and enthusiasm of a men’s basketball audience at Maples.
And as ridiculous as ESPN often is–why did ESPN reporters interview UConn head coach Geno Auriemma before speaking with VanDerveer on the court after the game?–it’s always a positive when Stanford leads off the 11:00 Eastern SportsCenter.
Stanford will begin PAC-10 conference play on Sunday at Cal beginning at 12:30 PM.