Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lady Vols have spell on Stanford

UT's 'streak of luck' against Cardinal at 11

It goes beyond any rational explanation for Tennessee Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt.

For Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer, she just wishes she could forget about it.

In the world of big-time women's basketball, the Tennessee Lady Vols' 11-game winning streak against Stanford defies logic.

"I didn't even realize it had been that many in a row," Summitt said as the Lady Vols prepare to take on the Cardinal in Palo Alto, Calif., tonight. "When it was brought to my attention, I just said that's unbelievable.

"Their program has been so good. We've had a lot of close games with them - overtime or down to the wire. Fortunately, we've just been able to find a way to win."

And win, and win.

The top-ranked Lady Vols (10-0) haven't lost to the No. 5-ranked Cardinal (9-1) since Dec. 15, 1996. They're 19-4 all-time against Stanford.

Former Lady Vol Shanna Zolman cemented her legend in the series when she banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Cardinal in 2004.

"When Shanna made that shot, Tara was just shaking her head, just unbelievable," Summitt said. "They did just about everything they could to win that game.

"We just had a streak of luck on the last shot. I was almost in disbelief myself."

If possible, Summitt would like to avoid any ulcer-producing, last-second dramatics this time.

The Lady Vols were sluggish in the first half of an 82-70 victory at UCLA on Wednesday. After taking Thursday off, Summitt implored her team to avoid a similar start against Stanford.

UT veteran Candace Parker (21.8 points per game) will try to outshine star guard Candice Wiggins (17.9 ppg).

"She's one of the best guards in the country," Summitt said of Wiggins.

Another focus for the Lady Vols is the continuing maturation of freshmen Angie Bjorklund and Vicki Baugh - both West Coast products.

For the 6-foot-4 Baugh, the trip to Stanford is almost like a homecoming for the Sacramento native.

She had 11 points and five rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench before taking a hard shot to the face against UCLA.

It was feared she might have a broken nose, but Summitt said there was no break and Baugh's ready to go against the Cardinal.

"Vicki really stepped up and had the best game of her young career at UCLA," Summitt said. "She had some family members there, and I think she's going to have about 29 coming to the Stanford game."

Bjorklund had a slow first half against the Bruins, but responded to a scathing halftime challenge from Summitt and finished with 12 points.

"I just asked her, 'What's the deal? You can't score on the road?' " Summitt said. "I just told her eventually you better learn to shoot it on the road to be successful.

"She went right back out and did a great job for us. I liked the way she responded."

Legends: The Stanford/UT matchup features two of the winningest coaches of all time.

Summitt has led the Lady Vols to seven national championships and has a career record of 957-180 in 34 seasons at UT.

VanDerveer is 698-185 overall and has brought two national titles to Stanford in her 22 seasons.

Star struck: This time, it was the movie stars who were star struck.

While the Lady Vols were busy beating UCLA on Wednesday, people like Michael Clarke Duncan (big guy in the movie "The Green Mile") and Harrison Ford and his wife, Calista Flockhart , were trying to get close to Summitt.

Duncan even approached Summitt on the bench and asked her to autograph his ticket.

"I guess that's typical L.A.," Summitt said. "It even amazes me at times how many fans we've attracted from all over the country through the years."

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