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Tara VanDerveer enters elite 800-win club as Stanford stops USF

SAN FRANCISCO -- Two stars from Tara VanDerveer's very first recruiting class at Stanford were right there to hand her the game ball from her milestone 800th victory. They were on the losing end this time.

VanDerveer became the sixth women's coach to reach the elite 800 wins mark Wednesday night, doing so in her third try as the eighth-ranked Cardinal routed San Francisco 100-45 and former Stanford greats turned coaches Jennifer Azzi and Katy Steding.

"I didn't plan it this way. I didn't want it this way, but it was so special to be here with Jennifer and Katy," VanDerveer said. "They were part of a lot of wins."

Kayla Pedersen scored her team's first eight points of the second half on the way to 16 and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds to lead Stanford (7-2), which was coming off losses last Thursday at No. 16 DePaul and then at fifth-ranked Tennessee on Sunday.

VanDerveer is 800-197 in 32 seasons as a head coach, 25 of those years at Stanford -- where she is 648-146. Azzi embraced the Hall of Fame coach after the final buzzer sounded, then fans and players held up 800 signs reading "Congratulations Tara." Azzi and Steding presented VanDerveer with flowers and the game ball in a ceremony at midcourt.

"Eight hundred's a lot of games," VanDerveer said. "It's a little ironic with Jennifer and Katy. It's apropos it's with them. ... I'm just a little bit blown away about Jennifer and Katy being here and the large number."

VanDerveer joins fellow 800-game winners Pat Summitt of Tennesse, former Texas coach Jody Conradt, Rutgers' C. Vivian Stringer, Sylvia Hatchell of North Carolina and Barbara Stevens -- who won her 800th just this past Sunday for Division II Bentley University in Massachusetts.

VanDerveer beat a pair of familiar faces to reach the milestone, facing first-year USF coach and Hall of Famer Azzi and her associate head coach, Steding. The two women were part of Stanford's first NCAA title in 1990 and on the VanDerveer-coached 1996 Olympic team that won gold in Atlanta.

"It's kind of bittersweet for me and for Katy," Azzi said. "I'm really excited for Tara tonight. She's the most brilliant mind in basketball. She had an impact on my life, not just as a coach but as a person. My career at Stanford is a lot of the reason I'm here. ... Giving her the ball was pretty incredible for us."

Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Joslyn Tinkle and Sara James all scored 14 points for Stanford, which held the Dons to 24.3 percent shooting. The Cardinal played without starting freshman forward Chiney Ogwumike, who turned her left ankle during the morning shootaround.

"It's pretty awesome to play for a coach who has 800 wins under her belt," Pedersen said. "She's pretty humble about it, but it's an incredible feat."

Kelly Jo Mullaney scored 13 points but the Dons went 11 minutes, 7 seconds without scoring spanning halftime.

Azzi, the Pac-10 player of the year in that 32-1 title run in '90, and Steding received a rousing ovation from the Stanford section when introduced. The coaches from both sides chatted before tipoff and were headed out for Mexican food afterward -- Azzi's treat.

"The mold wasn't broken. Just more great players came along," VanDerveer said of the tradition Azzi and Steding helped start. "I love it."

Azzi didn't schedule this game, which was on the calendar before she was hired in April to take over the struggling Dons program. Her team is 2-10 -- eight of those defeats blowouts -- and lost its seventh straight game. USF dropped its 15th in a row against Stanford in the series dating back to Dec. 15, 1984.

VanDerveer offered to talk to the Dons after this one, and Azzi sure appreciated the gesture on such a meaningful night.

Cardinal, who have reached the Final Four the past three seasons, dropped five spots from third in this week's rankings after the two losses. They sure took care of this one.

"I'm really glad to be part of the history," Nneka Ogwumike said.

After USF pulled within 23-21 on Vania Singleterry's 3-pointer at the 8:16 mark of the first half, Stanford answered with a 25-0 run the rest of the way in which James scored eight points and Ogwumike seven in a row. The Cardinal led 48-21 at the break.

Stanford plays No. 4 Xavier on Tuesday afternoon at Maples Pavilion, several hours before top-ranked Connecticut goes for its 90th straight victory at Pacific in nearby Stockton. Then, the Huskies visit Stanford on Dec. 30 in a highly anticipated rematch of last season's national title game won 53-47 by UConn after Stanford led 20-12 at halftime.

The Cardinal are the last team to beat the Huskies, in the 2008 national semifinals in Tampa, Fla.

"We are going to have to play very, very well. That's kind of the idea," VanDerveer said.

Nobody expected the overmatched Dons to stay with Stanford for long. Azzi said beforehand she just hoped her players gained some valuable experience playing against a top program in the country, but they hung tough early.

Stanford is 21-9 all time against San Francisco, which finished seventh in the eight-team West Coast Conference the past four seasons and went 5-27 overall and 1-13 in WCC play last season.

Former major league pitcher Vida Blue sat in the front row. Elementary students from the Oakland school where he volunteers sang the national anthem.