Nnemkadi Ogwumike's career-high 42 carry Cardinal to 68th straight home win
STANFORD, Calif. -- For Tara VanDerveer, Nnemkadi Ogwumike's career night ranked right up there with the best she has ever seen at Maples Pavilion. That's high praise for a Stanford star who has followed recent greats like Candice Wiggins, Jayne Appel and Jeanette Pohlen.
Ogwumike scored a career-high 42 points and dazzled in what might have been the most meaningful home game of her senior season, and No. 4 Stanford beat sixth-ranked Tennessee 97-80 on Tuesday night in one of women's basketballs best rivalries.
VanDerveer joked "she would have had 50" had Nneka not noticed the cheering, Fiesta Bowl-bound football team.
"This was one of the most incredible individual performances I've ever seen on this court," said VanDerveer, in her 26th season at Stanford. "Nneka has come such a long way. ... This year there's no stopping her. I said to her she was a woman with girls out there. She dominated in a way I've never seen. You can say it was a zone."
The Cardinal extended their school-record home winning streak to 68 games at Maples Pavilion, where a sellout crowd of 7,329 waved red "We Back Pat" rally towels in support of Hall of Fame Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt, who revealed in August she has early onset Alzheimer's.
Toni Kokenis scored a career-high 26 points with five 3-pointers and Ogwumike dominated for Stanford (8-1) in another physical, back-and-forth game like those that have defined the storied series with Tennessee (7-3).
Shekinna Stricklen scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Lady Vols, who had their five-game winning streak snapped. Stanford's total was the most points given up by Tennessee since 1997.
Glory Johnson added 18 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two steals and Meighan Simmons scored 13 for Tennessee on a night Ogwumike put on a show for national television. And for her pop.
With her father, Peter, in the stands fresh off a business trip to his native Africa, Ogwumike hit from long range and aggressively drove to the basket for layins. She jumped for joy after powering in for one score and drawing a foul. She jumped for 17 rebounds, too.
"Well, for lunch. No, I'm just kidding," Ogwumike joked of what did the trick.
After VanDerveer called for her other players to do more after a Saturday win against Princeton, it was all Ogwumike yet again. She scored six straight points for the Cardinal to open the second half.
VanDerveer hugged Ogwumike after her spectacular night.
"We talked so many times with the young players about how important Maples is to us," Ogwumike said, listing off her former teammates who started this sensational streak at home. "They defended this place like it was no other place."
The performance marked Stanford's first 40-point scorer since Appel went off for a school-record 46 in a win against Iowa State in the NCAA tournament regional finals at Berkeley on March 30, 2009. Wiggins had a 44-point game.
Ogwumike's basket that hit the rim and bounced in with 10:59 left gave the Cardinal their first double-digit lead of the game at 65-55 -- and they only built on that the rest of the way. Ogwumike's two free throws with 3:49 left topped her previous best outing of 38 points on April 4, 2010, against Oklahoma.
"She brought a lot of energy to the team," Johnson said. "When you have that much energy on the floor, it spreads to everyone else."
Like little sister. Sophomore Chiney Ogwumike added 14 points as the Cardinal shot 53.6 percent.
Tennessee shot a sizzling 61.5 percent in the first half to stay within 48-41 at the break before going a cool 37 percent in the second half to finish at 49.1 percent.
The Cardinal, riding a streak of four straight Final Fours without a championship, haven't lost on their home floor at raucous Maples Pavilion since falling to Florida State in the second round of the NCAA tournament on March 19, 2007.
Stanford has beaten Tennessee three times during that span -- also a 73-69 win on Dec. 22, 2007, and a 67-52 victory on Dec. 19, 2009. There also was that monumental 71-59 victory last Dec. 30 that snapped top-ranked Connecticut's record 90-game winning streak.
Summitt walked onto the court a few minutes before tipoff to a rousing standing ovation from the sellout crowd.
Fellow Hall of Famer VanDerveer was shown on the main elevated center-court scoreboard offering her support to Summitt while acknowledging how much Stanford cherishes the rivalry and regular non-conference meetings with the Lady Vols.
"She understands she and Tara and the rivarly they've had and the friendship," Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick said. "She understands this is more than basketball. It's been absolutely incredible the love they've shown for Pat."
VanDerveer said Stanford's program "is behind her 100 percent." Summitt was not yet on the court with her team to see the presentation.
"Pat, we love you, we care about you and we wish you the very best in your battle with Alzheimer's," said the video with VanDerveer, who walked to the opposite bench to greet Summitt. They posed for a few photos together.
"Tennessee, Pat has made us better," VanDerveer said afterward.
Stanford freshman starter Jasmine Camp missed the game with a left foot injury sustained in Sunday's practice. Kokenis played in her place and made back-to-back baskets midway through the opening half to get her team back within 16-13.
Stanford scored 40 or more in the opening 20 minutes against the Lady Vols for the first time since getting 41 on Nov. 27, 1999.
The Cardinal began the game 3 for 13 to 6 of 8 for Tennessee, which jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the opening 2:50.
The Lady Vols were whistled for a technical foul at the 11:18 mark of the first half for having six players on the court. Stanford converted both free throws to cut Tennessee's lead to 16-15.
Tennessee freshman guard Ariel Massengale, who had missed last three games nursing a dislocated middle finger on her left hand that required minor surgery, entered the game for the first time with 10:45 left. The Lady Vols beat DePaul and won at both Rutgers and UCLA without her. Massengale practiced Monday in the Bay Area.
Stanford football coach David Shaw and some of his players attended the game and men's basketball coach Johnny Dawkins sat courtside. Four-time Olympic luger Brian Martin participated in a halftime hoop shoot.
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