The fact that Stanford lost to Connecticut was not a major surprise, even on the Cardinal’s home court, but the degree to which the No. 1-ranked Cardinal women were outplayed and outscored was absolutely shocking.
It’s hard to imagine any Tara VanDerveer team losing by a score of 61-35 – even to a team as good as No. 2 UConn – but that is what happened on Saturday afternoon at Maples Pavilion.
It ended Stanford’s 82-game home winning streak – the second-longest such streak in women’s basketball history – but that was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of milestones.
The 26-point loss was the largest margin of defeat for Stanford on any court since it lost to St. Joseph’s 69-41 on Dec. 14, 1999, and it was the Cardinal’s most lopsided loss at home since VanDerveer became its coach in 1985. Stanford has been so consistent and so productive under VanDerveer that this kind of result did not seem possible. Not at home. Even the powerhouse USC team of 1985-86, which was ranked No. 5 at the time, did not beat the Cardinal at Stanford by that wide a margin, and the Cardinal finished just 1-7 in the conference that season.
But even more surprising was that the Cardinal (11-1) managed just 35 points. That’s the lowest total by a Stanford team since VanDerveer became coach. Never before had a VanDerveer-coached Stanford team been held under 40 points, and only six times had it been held under 50.
And this one was at home. The last time Stanford played UConn at Maples Pavilion, back on Dec. 30, 2010, the Cardinal scored 71 points in a 12-point victory that ended UConn’s 90-game winning streak.
This time Stanford didn’t get halfway to that total and shot just 19.3 percent from the field. That’s almost unfathomable, especially considering Stanford came into the game shooting 51.8 percent from the field, third best in the country.
Nineteen point three percent.
“To be so ineffective in so many areas of our game is extremely disappointing,” VanDerveer said.
UConn focused all its defensive attention on Chiney Ogwumike, often double- or triple-teaming her. She had 18 points and 13 rebounds, but she was just 6-for-22 from the field after coming into the game as the nation’s leader in field-goal percentage at 65.6 percent.
The game was tied at 5-5 before the Huskies outscored the Cardinal 24-4 over the next few minutes to take a 29-9 lead. The Cardinal scored just 13 points in the first half and never got closer than 15 points in the second half.
“I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like this,” Ogwumike said afterward.
It raises the question: Which was more surprising, the Cardinal’s neutral-court victory over a No. 1-ranked Baylor team that returned all five starters from an undefeated national championship team, or the total dominance UConn showed in beating No. 1 Stanford on the Cardinal’s homecourt.
As stunning as the Cardinal upset of the seemingly unbeatable Baylor team was, the magnitude of Stanford’s loss at home was just as surprising.
Now the question is how the Cardinal will respond. It will not be ranked No. 1 when it opens conference play next Friday on the road against unbeaten, No. 23-ranked Colorado. That is followed by a road game against 9-2 Utah, then come those back-to-back games against No. 8 Cal. That is followed by a Jan. 18 game against No. 17 UCLA.