Stanford, South Dakota State find some Maples magic

Stanford cruises past San Francisco (0:55)

Lili Thompson scores 17 points and Stanford handles San Francisco in the first round of the NCAA tournament 85-58. (0:55)

STANFORD, Calif. -- Tara VanDerveer knows that nostalgia has its place. And it's not in the 40 minutes that takes place after ball is tipped into the air.

"I love Jennifer, but I love winning more," VanDerveer said.

Luckily for the Hall of Fame coach, her team didn't make her choose between Jennifer Azzi, the player who "put Stanford on the map," and advancing to the next round of the NCAA tournament.

Fourth-seeded Stanford got a balanced, complete, impressive performance Saturday night to defeat No. 13 seed San Francisco 85-58 at Maples Pavilion, handing Azzi a loss in her first NCAA tournament game as a head coach.

For Azzi, it was a tough end to what she called a "surreal" day. For VanDerveer, it was another in a growing list of days in which her team performed well enough to move on to the next round in the NCAA tournament.

Azzi walked into Maples Pavilion late Saturday afternoon out of view of the court, behind the heavy black curtain that separates the locker room hallway from the floor.

She smiled, greeted a few well-wishers, and went straight into the locker room. Before the game, she sat on her bench, pensively watching warm-ups and taking it all in.

"It was all weird," Azzi said. "I mean, my parents are sitting in the stands wearing USF gear, not Stanford gear. It was surreal."

The two coaches shared their conflicting emotions in the pregame hug.

"I asked her how she was doing with all of this," VanDerveer said. "I was looking at her and thinking that here she is coaching her first NCAA game and I've coached, I don't know how many. I was really emotional. When you go back so long with someone ... I was really proud of her. Her team competed really hard. We had to play very well to win."

But Azzi knows well that her old coach's soft spot for her wasn't going to be worth a thing in the box score. Her upstart San Francisco team was dominated by a team that is playing at "another level," Azzi said.

Stanford was clearly superior in every category, taking advantage of an undersized team and spreading the ball and the scoring around, while shutting down the Dons' best players on the defensive end.

"That is what the next level looks like," said Azzi, whose team upset BYU in the WCC tournament championship game to earn its first NCAA berth since 1997. "It was good for our team to see that."

San Francisco also had another good example. In the opening game of the doubleheader, 12th-seeded South Dakota State upset No. 5 seed Miami 74-71, a mid-major taking down an established program.

The Jackrabbits rode the emotional support of a strong showing from a crowd that traveled 1,800 miles to cheer them on to their first NCAA win in seven years, and only the second in school history. The Jackrabbits battled nip and tuck with Miami until they pulled away late in the third quarter and then held on to the win.

"Right when I saw the bracket, I knew they were better than their seed," Miami coach Katie Meier said. "There were not going to be intimidated or wilt."

And they did not, not when the Hurricanes twice cut the lead to three points in the fourth quarter, forcing turnovers and clawing back.

"At halftime, we told each other we were going to have to go at it like we did in the first half, but better," South Dakota State guard Macy Miller said. "We were going to be tougher. ... They were going to come out even stronger. But we wanted it more."

VanDerveer has no illusions about what her team faces Monday, when Stanford will go for its 14th straight NCAA win at Maples Pavilion.

Stanford played South Dakota State in a tournament in Puerto Vallarta two seasons ago, a game the Cardinal won 80-60.

"I know they are good," VanDerveer said. "They won't be a surprise to us."

Azzi had another moment after the game to take in what had just happened. She told her players to learn from what they had just experienced so they could come back. Advice she will heed as well.

In reaching the NCAA field for the first time since Azzi took over six years ago, San Francisco gave its head coach a reunion that she probably never expected, the opportunity to coach on the opposite sideline of the coach that is still, after all these years, her idol and her mentor, a barometer and a sounding board.

After the game, when Azzi entered the press room for her postgame interview, VanDerveer's mother, Rita, greeted her. Rita VanDerveer had tears in her eyes, sad that Azzi's team had been eliminated.

"I said, 'C'mon mom, I'm blood,' " Tara VanDerveer joked. "Everyone loves Jennifer here. We love her. But once the game gets going, I don't care who is sitting on the other bench."