Tennessee coach Pat Summitt had plenty of strong messages for her players in practice this week following an embarrassing loss at Baylor. After the Lady Vols had squandered away their lead against Stanford, she called a timeout to give them one more.
"She just said, 'We're not going to lose this game,' " Meighan Simmons recalled. "I just think that everybody thought about what they needed to do to help the team win, and we just brought all of that together."
Simmons did her part with 23 points and by hitting a 3-pointer to force overtime, and No. 6 Tennessee used free throws to pull away in the extra session and beat Stanford (No. 2 ESPN/USA Today, No. 3 AP) 82-72 on Sunday night.
Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer was denied her 800th career win again after the Cardinal lost at DePaul (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) on Thursday. Her next chance comes Wednesday against San Francisco.
The Cardinal (6-2) held a 63-57 lead with 6:21 to go in regulation, but the Lady Vols' defense gave them trouble and several players drew their fourth fouls as time ticked off the clock. After Toni Kokenis was called for her fourth, Simmons hit a pair of free throws to tie it at 63 with 4:59 to go.
"I was very, very proud that we didn't panic when they went up by six," Summitt said. "We kept our composure."
Jennette Pohlen, who led Stanford with 24 points, hit a 3-pointer from the wing with 1:07 to go to give the Cardinal a 70-67 lead, but Simmons charged down the floor and answered with her own 3 that sent the crowd of 14,197 into a frenzy.
Glory Johnson stole the ball back on a sloppy pass from Kayla Pedersen, but Stanford got the ball back on a tie-up when Shekinna Stricklen lost control of it. VanDerveer called a timeout, and Kokenis drove the court and attempted a mid-range jump shot just before the buzzer against Kelley Cain, who blocked it.
Stanford struggled with sloppy play early in overtime. Pohlen fouled out less than a minute into OT, and Sarah Boothe committed two turnovers before committing her fifth foul and joining Pohlen on the bench 16 seconds later.
"We just needed to lock down on defense, not foul," Pohlen said. "We needed to keep our hands up, box them out and not let them get second shots."
The Lady Vols (10-2) went 8 of 14 from the foul line in overtime. Cain missed back-to-back foul shots with 2:41 left but grabbed the rebound off the second and hit a jump shot in the middle of the lane to give Tennessee a 75-70 lead that again had the crowd screaming. The Cardinal's only overtime points came on a pair of free throws by Pedersen.
"I thought we got some good looks, and we didn't knock down shots that we needed to," VanDerveer said. "When they got good looks, they made shots."
Early in the game, it was all Tennessee. The Lady Vols were coming off a brutal loss at Baylor (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) when they shot 25 percent, the worst percentage in program history.
Against Stanford, they hit five of their first six 3-point attempts and grabbed a 30-16 lead -- their largest of the game -- on a jumper by Kamiko Williams with 7:21 in the first half. Tennessee shot 48.5 percent in the first half but cooled off to 35.5 percent in the second.
Both teams went cold for 3 minutes, but a 3-pointer by Pedersen broke the spell and a pair of baskets by Pohlen helped chip away at the margin some more. By halftime, Tennessee's lead was 39-31.
Stanford used 62.5 percent shooting in the second half after hitting just 33.3 percent of its shots in the first to cover the rest of the margin, and a 3-pointer from Pohlen tied the game at 49 with 13:25 left.
"The way Stanford came out [of halftime], I thought they had been shot out of a cannon," Summitt said. "They came to play. We didn't respond well."
Angie Bjorklund added 16 points, Stricklen had 15 and Taber Spani 10 for Tennessee.
Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Stanford. Pedersen added 10 points.
These two teams have gone to overtime in six of their 28 meetings. The Cardinal's last visit to The Summitt court at Thompson-Boling Arena went into overtime, with Tennessee winning that one 79-69 in a similar manner.
In that game it was Pohlen who knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game, but Stanford didn't get a single point in OT.
The Lady Vols lead the annual series 22-6, although the teams have split the last five meetings.
"I think it just shows we both have really competitive teams, and they are hard-fought battles that are disappointing to lose," VanDerveer said.