Time: 12-7, Tennessee
Score: 15:50 (left in the first half)
What happened: Wiggins started where she left off – trickling in a three over the front rim. Anosike turned around over Appel from six feet out and then a Hornbuckle jumper gave Tennessee a 4-3 lead. Tennessee's defense is coming out high to deny ball entry to Pedersen to let her start the triangle offense. Ros and Appel score down low to knot the game at seven. Bobbitt hit two threes, then Parker converted on a 2-on-1 fast-break layup, with the Lady Vol backcourt pressuring Gold-Onwude and Stanford's guards heavily.
For Stanford: Calm down. Maybe don't slow down, because that's the tempo Tennessee wants, but if the speed limit's 70, we're trying to go 90 right now – and it's showing.
For Tennessee: Keep clogging the lanes down low. Stanford's been respecting the post play and sagging heavily – and that's what left Bobbitt wide-open for those two threes.
Score: 17-9, Tennessee
What happened: Stanford didn't exactly calm down, with Hones airballing a 12-footer long and Pohlen then getting stripped by Anosike. Hones turned it over on the next possession, then Appel lost an entry pass to a tie-up, but the possession arrow pointed Stanford's way. That's 2.5 turnovers in three possession if you're keeping score at home. Tennessee's missed a couple times straight, so the margin's still 12-7. Appel forces a prayer under the hoop, then can't handle a high entry pass the next possession. 3.5 turnovers in five possessions, 4.5 if you count Appel's force of a shot. Parker hits a jumper, and two free throws on the next possession, so Tennessee leads 16-7, Stanford's biggest deficit of the Tournament. Tara doesn't elect to call a timeout and Candice Wiggins responds by airballing a three. Tennessee coughs it up – if Stanford comes back to win, Tennessee is going to kick themselves for not stepping on Stanford's throat here when they had the chance. Wiggins forces an off-balance three as the shot-clock expires – Stanford has no buckets in over four minutes because they've had no good looks at the hoop in as long. Tennessee misses down low again and Appel responds with a reverse layup. Bobbit throws in a crossover layup and Stanford has nine minutes of play it'd love to forget. They're very lucky to be down just eight.
For Stanford: As poorly as you've played, you're just three shots from the lead. It's more a mental adjustment than anything – now we're trying to go 100 in a 70 zone. Just calm down, don't try to do too much at once and keep up the hard D.
For Tennessee: Would you like a written invitation to a national title? You have Stanford on the ropes, finish them off. The Lady Vols have four turnovers to Stanford's six – if they can clean it up and put together one run here, Stanford's really in trouble.
Score: 21-15, Tennessee
What happened: Both teams again turned it over, but only Hones made it count, knocking down a three to pull within 19-13. Anosike gets loose for an uncontested O-board and putback – she's been giving Stanford all sorts of trouble. I think Harmon gets away with a travel for a layup, then Wiggins leaves a fast-break layup long – she's just trying too hard right now. The spurt ends fittingly, with the Lady Vols missing three or four open jumpers, and then slapping a Stanford fast-break pass out-of-bounds. Perfect microcosm for the game thus far.
For Stanford: See above. Eight turnovers to 15 shots, not a good ratio. Other than playing out of our heads, maybe we also need to focus on offensive rebounding. Tennessee has four early, and they shouldn't given our size down low. Maybe give Wiggins a breather to let her refocus? She's 1-of-5 with two turnovers. ESPN's reporting that Tara was tearing into the players on the bench. "These players are struggling under the weight of the game." – ESPN.
For Tennessee: Numbers lie. They say the LadyVols are 9-of-19. I say they've missed every open jumper in the last eight minutes. Hit a few of those and the opportunity's still there to pull away.
Score: 30-21, Tennessee
What happened: This is becoming highly embarrassing. Anosike forces another turnover, tying up Harmon just after Stanford just barely inbounded it. Then Wiggins got trapped for a five-second call. That's 11 turnovers to 15 shots if you're keeping score. Make it 12, albeit on a garbage charge call on Gold-Onwude. Tennessee's up 25-15 after a Anosike layup. Now 27-17 after an Appel layup and two Parker free throws. Then Stanford finally breaks a Louisville-like press (ask men's basketball fans) with a Wiggins layup and Pedersen misses a point-blanker after nice ball movement again. A Bobbitt three (she's 3-of-4 deep and always open) and a Pedersen back-to-the-basket layup and it's 30-21 Tennessee. But at least Stanford's last two possessions are a reason for hope – maybe they've started to figure out how to break the press.
For Stanford: Okay, finally a glimmer on offense. Keep breaking the full-court press, Tennessee will have to shift out of it and I like our odds in a half-court offense against anyone. Stop sleeping on Babbitt on defense. Presumably it's our point guard, JJ Hones, that needs to ratchet up the D.
For Tennessee: You've extracted as much as you can hope for out of the full-court press. It looks like Stanford's figured it out. Time to switch away from this, and maybe throw another wrinkle at the Cardinal.
Score: Tennessee 37, Stanford 29
What happened: Tennessee stays in the full-court press, and Wiggins makes the Lady Vols pay by draining an open three. Anosike has another layup down low – she now has eight points on 4-of-7 shooting. We're struggling to extend our D all the way inside to her and all the way outside to Bobbitt. Alberta Auguste splits a pair from the line, and the Lady Vols have now shot eight free throws to Stanford's four. Hones throws up a no-look airball from six feet and Bobbitt hits another two free throws to push their edge to the line to ten to four. They've been the aggressors, no complaints (as we turn it over again). 35-25 Tennessee with 1:16 to go – halving the lead by the half seems imperative. And Wiggins rises to the challenge with an over-under layup. Anosike is left all alone for a 18-footer and swishes it. Wiggins again coughs it up and fouls the ball thief, Anosike (six steals!). Anosike misses the front of the one-and-one and, on the last possession of the half, Harmon makes a no-look fadeaway shot that she launched overhead, like a soccer throw-in. But, hey, it counts. "We are so discombobulated," Tara tells the Worldwide Leader. Summit says Anosike set the tone on both ends. Hard to argue.
For Stanford: 12-of-25 shooting is fine, 16 rebounds are fine, but the 14 turnovers aren't. Wiggins is the worst offender with no assists and four cough-ups – she simply needs to do better. Keep the ball in her hands and ride or die with your senior All-American. On defense, 23 of the Lady Vols' points have come from Bobbitt and Anosike. Maybe a box-and-one is in order – collapse the box around the paint and keep the free defender on Bobbitt?
For Tennessee: I still think the Lady Vols might want to go away from full-court press because Stanford has started to break it for open looks. Offensively, Hornbuckle has just two points, Auguste just three and Parker just two made field goals. Stanford is presumably going to shift their D onto Bobbitt and Anosike and make one of that trio step up. They might have to down the stretch.
Time: 15:47 (left in the second half)
Score: 46-35, Tennessee
What happened: We come out as a different ballclub. Four points inside (okay, technically, Pedersen's last two were from the free throw line) and it's 37-33. "I think we're going to win," I say. It's just a different game and pace than the first half, evident in the first 50 seconds. Tennessee, of course, responds with a fast break layup. We go inside again – that was the halftime adjustment, just pound, pound, pound down low. But after another Anosike lay-in, Parker strips the in-bounds and throws in the layup to put the Lady Vols back up 43-33. 6-0 run for Tennessee. Anosike picks up her third trying for a steal, and Wiggins throws in her 12th point off a layup. Parker goes and-one – she's elevating her play to another level – before Appel draws a foul down low on the other end.
For Stanford: I like the recognition that our comparative strength in this game is in the frontcourt. Keep pounding it there – we'll score a lot more than 29 in this half. Of course, right when our offense awakens is when Tennessee's O decides to do the same. Trading baskets isn't going to win it – we need to launch a run with some tough D.
For Tennessee: Parker has Tennessee's last five. Keep feeding her, because she's executing at another level right now. If Stanford overadjusts to stop it, that'll leave Bobbitt and Alosike open too.
Score: 50-40, Tennessee
What happened: Appel misses two free throws, but a Wiggins tip leads to a Hones trip and a Wiggins fast break layup. Auguste knocks down a jumper from the free throw line, and then a Kevin-Love like outlet pass would have been great for Brook Lopez but is instead our 18th turnover. Pedersen rips a rebound away from Tennessee and then Hones goes right for an easy lay-up (one of the bigs set a great seal. This could be the run, as Tennessee fires a three early in the clock that had no chance. Appel draws another foul down low – we now have shot four free throws in this half, as many as in the first, and Appel splits a pair, but Harmon has the O board. Off yet another Tennessee foul (their sixth of the half), Appel is whistled on a three-second call. Baugh goes over Wiggins (who's struggling today) with a put-back layup, Wiggins gets no rim on a crazy drive and layup. Tennessee gets another O board, but misses a J. We gift it back with a turnover, our 19th of the game.
For Stanford: The turnovers have to stop. Tennessee's offensive rebounds (now 11) have to stop. If we do those two things, I still think we have a chance.
For Tennessee: Keep beating Stanford at their game on the offensive glass. Raise your hands if you saw that coming. Defensively, maybe sag to adjust to the Cardinal's determination to go low this half.
Score: 53-44, Tennessee
What happened: Tennessee misses another jumper, and then Pedersen airballed a 12-footer, resulting in a shot-clock violation. This isn't the team we've seen all season. The teams trade buckets down low, Tennessee grabs another offensive board off a missed three, but Hornbuckle throws it away. Anosike checks back in, just two shy of an NCAA record eight steals. Wiggins leaves a layup low (Parker might have gotten a piece), then the Lady Vols again turn it over off a foul. Appel's short from point-blank range and Parker splits from the line. Off a Ros miss, Appel again misses two from the line (she's 2-of-8 now), and the teams then trade misses. Appel throws in a hook and a Ros travel ends the spurt.
For Stanford: Appel's pooped. Time to go back outside – we're just 3-of-5 deep on the night. Then again, we're just getting into the double-bonus (eight Tennessee fouls on the half) and Anosike has four fouls. Either way, the defense is doing its job – now the offense needs to hold up its half of the bargain.
For Tennessee: Start running more clock on offense, as it's not like the quick sets are actually scoring. Whatever pixie dust you're using on defense, keep it up.
Score: 58-44, Tennessee
What happened: Baugh makes Wiggins pay for over-pursuit on a steal with a layup, before going down hard and staying there for a minute or two. Wiggins needs to take over on offense right now – her team needs her. She gets it for an open three – that's the look we want – and airballs it long. No one sequence has better defined tonight. Then Ros turns it over (the Lady Vols' 12th steal) and Parker spins in the lane to draw a foul. Wiggins forces another pass to Tennessee after Hones leaves a three long. Really a game to forget for her. Stanford switches to a 2-3 zone and the Lady Vols miss a 14-foot jumper – but grab yet another offensive board. Parker fills it up with the shot clock running down to put Tennessee up 14, their biggest lead of the day.
For Stanford: Play the Arizona-Illinois tape from the Elite Eight a few years ago? (Heck, or just from last night.) Time to make some threes, ladies.
For Tennessee: Grab the scissors. Oh, and if you're up three with five seconds to go, just ask John Calipari. Foul.
Score: Tennessee 64, Stanford 48
What happened: The Lady Vols miss the front end of a one-and-one and Appel comes back with a layup. The teams trade two free throws apiece, with Appel now leading Stanford's scorers with 16. Stanford's not fouling down 12 with 1:50 to go – until Wiggins does with seven seconds left on the shot clock near the timeline. Hornbuckle is in obvious pain, grimacing her teeth, but makes two free throws. Off a short Stanford three, Parker piles on one more. Offensive foul on Appel – you have to hope that this doesn't hurt her psyche too much in the offseason, but instead serves as positive motivation. Wiggins also checks out with the omnipresent smile on her face, but is that a hint of a tear in her eye? Parker checks out to cheers, Tennessee adds another free throw and this one is thankfully over. Tennessee wins its eighth national title.
Final thoughts: The pundits complete an 0-for-life streak with
Stanford in this Tournament. The one game they pick the Cardinal to win,
Stanford lays an absolute egg. The women's game is so much more mental than the
men's, you have to wonder if Stanford wasn't used to getting the pregame hype,
wasn't used to the pressure of a championship game, and then, when things
started going badly, Wiggins and her teammates tried to do too much – which
played right back into Tennessee's hands. Then again, the Lady Vols were
incredibly athletic in the backcourt, and there's a reason they were favored
even with their MVP banged up. Defense, not offense, wins championships, and
Tennessee's aggressive backcourt brought home the hardware tonight.
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