This Date in Cardinal Women's Hoops: 12-16-95 vs.
High anticipation made for high emotion 14 years ago, but that didn't allow for instant elevation for Stanford women's basketball on this date in 1995.
The second-ranked Tennessee Volunteers began that Saturday's contest looking very much like the squad that had won nine of the 11 all-time meetings between the two foes. Head coach Pat Summitt's talented crew – a year removed from a dominating 105-69 win against the Cardinal – forced No. 9 Stanford center Olympia Scott into two early traveling calls. The Vols were already up by five. Cue the groans from the near-capacity Maples Pavilion crowd.
But faster than you can say "Mulitauaopele," the tide turned. Tennessee guard Kellie Jolly dragged her pivot foot. The charged-up fans were already on their feet, circling their arms in unison before the referee's whistle. The game, which ended in a 90-72 Stanford victory, inspired such adrenaline-packed reactions.
Kate Starbird, a future NCAA Player of the Year, scored 26 points from her perimeter spot. Sophomore forward Naomi Mulitauaopele added 23 points off the bench, 19 of which came in the second half, as Stanford turned tense early moments into a fun-filled laugher.
Tennessee's 12-7 lead quickly became a 29-16 Stanford edge, the momentum change spurred on by a spirited 11-0 Cardinal run. Stanford was up 40-26 at halftime. Improbably, the Cardinal led 72-44 with ten minutes left in regulation.
"We were pretty much perfect tonight," said Starbird, a sophomore at the time. ""Last year was a definite motivator. I remember getting crushed at Tennessee, and tonight was the exact opposite. We were excited before the game. We had a good feeling."
"Revenge" was the theme that day, while the overall 1995-96 season was a testament to the consistency of the Cardinal program, which persevered to reach the second of three consecutive Final Fours. The upcoming Atlanta Olympics siphoned away both head coach Tara Vanderveer and 1995-96's top rebounder and freshman two-sport phenom Kristin Folkl.
The amazing Folkl left school to train with the U.S. Olympic volleyball team. Vanderveer took a one-year sabbatical to coach the USA Basketball women's squad. With former Stanford superstars Katy Steding and Jennifer Azzi on the roster, Tara brought her new side to Maples to play an exhibition game that October.
The super-stacked Olympians endured a tough first half before pulling away in 100-63 fashion. As expected, the youth of Jamila Wideman and Vanessa Nygaard wore down against those who preceded them on The Farm. "'I don't want to make them feel real old, but they're my role models,'' said Nygaard. "I watched them in high school. They're the reason I wanted to come to Stanford."
In Vanderveer's place for the one-season temp job stepped a more-than-capable presence. Amy Tucker had served as Tara's longtime lieutenant at Stanford. Now was her time to be a head coach. Marianne Stanley, respected throughout women's college basketball as a head coach, became Tucker's top assistant.
Stanford opened the 1995-96 season in shaky fashion with a loss to UMass, only to follow with three straight victories leading up to the anticipated duel with the Lady Vols.
Tennessee – winners of their schedule's first eight games, five coming against Top 15 teams – had spent to offseason stewing over an NCAA finals loss to Rebecca Lobo and Connecticut. The Vols put their hopes in a heralded freshman recruiting class that featured all-everything Chamique Holdsclaw. She was already the team's leading scorer and rebounder coming into the Stanford game.
Holdsclaw made little impact early, attempting only four shots from the field in the first half. All but two of her 17 overall points came in the second half. The Cardinal were busy dominating both the post and the future WNBA No. 1 pick.
Coming off a career-high 22 points against Santa Clara, Scott scored 10 of her 15 points in the first half. Her effort was an impressive all-around performance. Seven steals and four assists, complemented by 7-of-9 shooting from the field.
"Our post game was used and abused," Summitt said.
The rough-and-tumble Mulitauaopele made eight of 12 from the floor.
"It was a great win for a young team," Tucker said.
Countered Mulitauaopele: "We're not 'young' anymore."
The Cardinal shot 52.5 percent from the floor, compared to just 39.7 percent for Tennessee. Little-used substitutes Chandra Benton and Amy Wustefeld logged minutes against a team that wound up winning the national championship that year.
Consider this - Stanford's signature performance came during a landmark season for women's college hoops. The Women's Final Four, aided by taking part in a bigger venue (the 23,000-seat Charlotte Coliseum) actually drew more than the men's version.
"We were sick of losing to Tennessee," Tucker said.
Note: The storied rivalry continues this Saturday at 11:30AM [PT]
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