STANFORD, Calif. — Tara VanDerveer has always considered a game against Tennessee a true test for her Stanford program, win or lose.
This victory told the Cardinal coach plenty. The next game on the schedule should do the trick, too.
Kayla Pedersen had 16 points and eight rebounds and No. 2 Stanford beat third-ranked Tennessee 67-52 on Saturday in a matchup of unbeaten national powerhouses.
“This really kind of lets you know where you’re at,” VanDerveer said. “When you play Tennessee, I think it’s a win whether it’s a big ‘W’ or a little ‘w.’ They help you get better. They’re the barometer. They always let you know what you have to work on.”
Jayne Appel added 10 points, 14 boards, three assists and three blocks and Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored all 14 of her points in the second half to go with 10 rebounds for the Cardinal (9-0). Stanford held off a late run and won its 35th straight game at Maples Pavilion.
Let the hype begin for Stanford’s showdown with No. 1 Connecticut on Wednesday night in Hartford in one of the most highly anticipated games of the regular season.
Angie Bjorklund scored 15 points and Glory Johnson 13 for the Lady Vols (9-1) on a day when leading scorer Shekinna Stricklen was held to eight on 4 of 12 shooting.
Tennessee managed only four assists.
“That may be an all-time record at University of Tennessee for the Lady Vols basketball team,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.
This was the biggest matchup so far for both schools and each was slow getting going offensively after the 11:30 a.m. tipoff. It was the first time in 10 meetings that Tennessee came to Stanford ranked lower than the Cardinal.
“They exposed their game to all of women’s basketball today, and it wasn’t pretty,” Summitt said of her squad. “It was a butt kicking, don’t forget it. I won’t. They were the best team today in all aspects of the game. We’ve got to get a whole lot better. We fell apart. Sometimes that happens.”
Pedersen converted a key putback midway through the second half and a 3-pointer with 8:01 to play that helped spark her team. She also knocked a jumper with 4:42 to go, thrilling the near-sellout crowd of 6,809.
The game featured scalpers outside the arena and pregnant WNBA star Lisa Leslie doing color for the television broadcast.
Stanford was challenged to establish an inside game with 6-foot-6 Kelley Cain clogging the middle and making things tough on the 6-4 Appel, the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year.
“I felt like a lineman, kind of,” Appel said. “I was told to meet her at the free-throw line. It was physical. Tomorrow will be a recovery day for both of us because we were going at each other a lot.”
Johnson converted a three-point play after drawing Appel’s third foul with 13:46 remaining and Appel went to the bench. Summitt immediately sent in Cain, but she quickly got whistled for her third foul and came right back out of the game.
After Johnson’s play, Stanford answered with a 7-0 spurt and forced Tennessee into back-to-back turnovers.
The Cardinal were stronger in many areas four days after beating seventh-ranked Duke 71-55, especially on the boards after allowing the Blue Devils 25 offensive rebounds.
After falling behind 9-4, Stanford used an 18-4 run to gain momentum. Both teams had scoreless stretches of more than 5 minutes in the first half.
Stanford got a big boost late in the first half from Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, who hit consecutive 3s followed by a driving layup. Pedersen then drew a charge on Stricklen on the other end and the Cardinal took a 30-18 lead at the break. They led by 18 in the second half.
Tennessee matched its sixth-lowest halftime total, also done against Stanford in the NCAA tournament regional finals in 2004. The Lady Vols won that game 62-60, the previous-low scoring total for the Lady Vols in the series.
It was Gold-Onwude who scored nine of Stanford’s 10 points in overtime of a 73-69 win over top-ranked Tennessee at Maples on Dec. 23, 2007, to end an 11-game losing streak in the series.
Tennessee stays in the Bay Area to play at San Francisco on Tuesday night and Summitt planned to get her team in the film room right away.
The Lady Vols are still striving for the Final Four.
“They didn’t surprise me. I think they surprised our team,” Summitt said. “This team has got to make a decision here real soon if we’re committed to getting to San Antonio, because right now we’re miles away, or we could be years away.”