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Tennessee couldn’t improve to a perfect 10-0 Saturday evening as No. 3 Stanford defeated the Lady Vols at Thompson-Boling Arena, 74-63.
Stanford jumped out to a big first half lead that ballooned all the way to 20 points thanks to a dominant 26-13 second quarter advantage for the Cardinal. Tennessee hadn’t allowed over 30 points in the first half of a game all season before giving up 26 in the second quarter and 43 in the half.
A large reason for Stanford’s offensive success in the first half was the absence of Tennessee center Tamari Key who played just four minutes due to foul trouble.
“Well, I think their shooting percentage was really high that quarter, because they got open looks,” Tennessee head coach Kellie Harper said. “They had so many layups in that quarter. Some were in transition, and some were in our half-court defense, and that’s not who we are. Our defense can’t give up easy buckets. You know, Tamari (Key) not being out on the court definitely hurt us. Everybody that stepped up there in that second quarter… by that point in that second quarter in particular, I think we just were two steps behind. Part of that was our offense. We weren’t scoring; therefore, they’re getting the ball and they’re pushing it up the court. Everything was going wrong. Occasionally, you’ve got to score to slow them down. The easy buckets, we’ve got to do a better job of that.”
Tennessee came rallying back in the third quarter, scoring the frames’ first 12 points to cut Stanford’s lead to three. The Lady Vols’ defense was dominant thanks to great ball pressure that forced eight turnovers.
“Honestly, I feel like we started off, and I think the nerves got to us,” guard Jordan Horston said. “We knew that they were a great team, and we couldn’t have any mental lapses, and so we came out in the second half, we got it under control, our nerves were together, and we just played basketball. But unfortunately, with good teams like that, we can’t start out the game like that. I mean, we all saw how we played… you all saw what we’re capable of; we can beat any team, I stand on that.”
Still, the Lady Vols’ offense went on a massive dry spell, not making a basket for 4:30 as Stanford was able to stabilize and hold onto its lead.
The killer came late in the quarter. Tennessee had the ball with he shot clock off, trailing by three. Freshman Sara Puckett missed a triple with seven seconds left in the half and Stanford’s Hannah Jump nailed a triple as time expired on the quarter to give the Cardinal a six-point lead.
Stanford got hot from three-point range in the fourth quarter including three made triples in less than two minutes from Ashten Prechtel. The Cardinal got their lead back to double digits and while the Lady Vols never went away they never got within six points again.
Tennessee will return to the court on Monday when they host East Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. ET.