STANFORD, Calif. -- It was a game that was, in many ways, a shell of its former shelf.
Not just because, for the first time in the 33-year history of the annual matchup, neither Stanford nor Tennessee was ranked in the top 10.
Not because Maples Pavilion, which is historically full to the rafters and rocking when the Lady Vols come to town, was a little more than half full and sufficiently enthusiastic.
But because neither the 14th-ranked Lady Vols nor the 15th-ranked Cardinal look like obvious contenders to be in Indianapolis in April.
The two most storied programs in the history of the game, the standard-bearers in their respective conferences, are looking up at long line of teams with more talent, more potential right now.
Both still have to prove they belong in that line.
What did Stanford prove with a 69-55 win over the Lady Vols on Wednesday night?
It was the Cardinal's second win over a ranked team at home this season. And it was a welcome change from the last time they played at home, when they were upset by upstart Santa Clara, a team that hadn't beaten Stanford in 17 years.
"That game left a bad taste in our mouth," forward Erica McCall said. "Right now, we are tasting candy."
It wasn't exactly a statement win because Tennessee isn't exactly a statement team right now. Instead, it was a game that will prepare Stanford for the rigors of its Pac-12 schedule, now just three games away.
"We are excited," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "This was a great night for us. I don't care about what people are ranked. We've had bigger crowds here to see Tennessee and lost. We are going to use this game to make us better."
"Nine points in a quarter is ridiculous, really. And defensively, we don't stick to our game plan as well. There are so many things we can do better." Tennessee coach Holly Warlick
Stanford had a strong night on the defensive end as the Cardinal held Tennessee to 31.7 percent shooting and the second-fewest points scored in the history of the series. As a bonus, Stanford outrebounded Tennessee by 11, a rare margin in the column that has been the pride of the Lady Vols program.
Offensively, it was a solid performance with balance and hustle. Led by junior Lili Thompson's 19 points, Stanford had three players in double figures. McCall finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman Marta Sniezek had a career-best night with nine points and four assists in a career-high 29 minutes.
"What I like right now is that we are getting contributions from a lot of people," VanDerveer said.
For Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick, her team proved it has a lot of work to do. The Lady Vols looked uninspired for most of three quarters and faced a 21-point deficit late in the third. She said she could make "two or three notebook pages" full of things Tennessee needs to do better after this game.
"Offensively, we get out of our game plan and it's disruptive," Warlick said. "Nine points in a quarter is ridiculous, really. And defensively, we don't stick to our game plan as well. There are so many things we can do better."
Tennessee rallied to draw within seven before the Cardinal put them away. The Lady Vols' 23-10 run to get them back in the game was an example of the Lady Vols' potential.
"It is just little things we don't do," Warlick said. "We have to keep going back to work and getting them to buy in.
"We've just got to play basketball. I can draw up a lot of things, but it just comes down to 'play the game.' For the first time in that last quarter, we decided to play how we can play."
Diamond DeShields and Jaime Nared both had 12 points. DeShields scored eight points in the first half, but was limited by foul trouble in the second.
Warlick said she is looking for her team to demonstrate a sense of urgency. Tennessee's best win is a 57-55 win over a Syracuse team that was ranked No. 25 at the time, but is now unranked.
The road gets no easier for Tennessee, which heads north for a matchup against Pac-12 favorite Oregon State on Saturday. And then the SEC schedule begins.
"To say we need a sense of urgency is an understatement," Warlick said. "We just have to regroup and figure out what's good for us and make sure they stick with that plan."
Both Warlick and VanDerveer have been on the bench for most, if not all of the games in this series. Neither was willing to say that it's not quite what it used to be when Candace Parker went against Candice Wiggins and the building shook with each big rebound, when the mid-December matchups were an appetizer for national championship runs to come.
"I think Stanford has a great chance [to be a Final Four team], and I think we have a chance," Warlick said. "Look, I think we are a very talented basketball team. But if you aren't going out and competing...you have to be competitive and you have to have energy. Defense is about getting down and getting competitive. And we can do it when we want to.
"It is up to these young ladies to figure out what's important to them. ... We have to get that hunger and desire. We have to get that. We will get there. We just don't have it right now."