"Candace Parker is not coming into the press conference tonight because she's in there a little beat up. I thought she fought hard, but when I look at the fact that obviously we struggled to get there then I've got to go back and figure out how I can help this team do a better job of getting to the free throw line. It's pretty frustrating the entire basketball game."
Parker led all scorers with 25 points but made only six trips to the free throw line. Conversely, Stanford attempted 32 free throws and made 23. The teams play a similar style in terms of getting the ball inside by post feeds and dribble penetration.
"Going to the paint and going to the rim," Summitt replied when asked how Parker had gotten banged up. "I'm going to take my time and watch each one of those possessions because it happens to her all the time. It's a part of being the best player in the game, but at some point in time it doesn't quite seem appropriate."
Summitt opened her press conference with a salute to Stanford, 10-1.
"Obviously Stanford played a really great basketball game," Summitt said. "They made their shots when they had to make shots. They made big plays. We really broke down a lot in defending their high-low game, which they did a tremendous job of spacing on the floor.
"I'm proud of our team. I told them I can't be upset because this is a great learning experience for us."
"I just want to say one thing," VanDerveer said as the press conference drew to a close. "Tonight Candice is spelled with an ‘i.' "
Tennessee, 10-1, had its chances to be the victor in the storyline, but a season-long issue – ball security – cropped up again. The Lady Vols had 17 turnovers – and only six in the second half – but the critical ones came from bad passes, and Stanford took advantage, especially to close out the first half.
Tennessee was leading 33-22 with 2:27 to go in the first half when Stanford used back-to-back steals by Wiggins and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude to cut the lead to 33-27.
"We didn't answer that run," Summitt said. "We didn't close out the first half. Looking back I'm sure that was costly, as well."
"It's hard to hold them down an entire half or an entire game," Hornbuckle said. "Obviously you saw that. They pulled together in stretches where they needed to pull together, and we broke down when we didn't need to so I commend them for their efforts. They're a great basketball team."
The run shifted momentum to Stanford to end the first half, and the second half – Stanford took its first lead of the game, 38-37 at the 15:07 mark – set up the dramatic finish.
"We picked up our defense completely … there was a sense of urgency that we were heading into the half," Wiggins said. "I think momentum going into halftime is key, so we got a few steals, transition points, took it to the basket, and I think that really opened up our defense and got us the momentum."
Jayne Appel, who was 3-9 to that point, also got some advice at halftime from Assistant Coach Amy Tucker.
"Amy told me at halftime to stop playing scared and just to go up with it," Appel said. "We had 20 minutes to leave it on the floor, so I think our team battled and did that."
Appel finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. The Cardinal out-rebounded Tennessee, 36-30, with Parker getting one-third of the Lady Vols' total with 10. Parker also rolled in the game-tying shot with seven seconds left to send the game into overtime with the score knotted at 63. Parker also had four blocks and two steals.
"Candace obviously stepped up when she needed to step up," Summitt said.
Parker also hit a layup with 22 seconds left to pull Tennessee to 63-61. Nicky Anosike then fouled Wiggins to stop the clock. Anosike went to the bench with five fouls, and Wiggins went to the free throw line and missed both attempts. That set up Parker's shot to tie the game.
"Candice was trying to help the TV rating going into overtime, but I'm really proud of how our team stuck with things, and we came out with a win, which is a huge win for us," VanDerveer said. "We're very happy."
Stanford prevailed in overtime thanks to the clutch shots by Gold-Onwude, who hit a three-pointer with 53 seconds left to give Stanford a 70-68 lead. Parker hit a free throw to get Tennessee to within one, and Wiggins hit one of two from the line to push Stanford's lead to 71-69. But Shannon Bobbitt lost the ball in the lane on Tennessee's last possession, and Gold-Onwude sealed the game at the line with two free throws to secure the 73-69 win.
Tennessee's turnovers proved too costly in such a tight game. Alexis Hornbuckle, who otherwise played a stellar game on both ends, made a bad pass to Parker near the end of regulation with Tennessee down 61-59 and with 32 seconds left that Wiggins intercepted. Wiggins was fouled by Parker to stop the clock and made both to push the lead to four points, 63-59, but Parker hit two clutch shots in the final 30 seconds to tie the game.
"We had a late pass that really hurt us," Summitt said. "Obviously ball security has always been a priority for us. We'll look at this tape; we'll learn from it. I think our basketball team, they understand they can be better. I think that's one thing that may have really hurt us this year coming off a national championship is that we didn't play hard for 40 minutes game in and game out. But Stanford did; they played really tough."
Stanford opened the overtime with a three-pointer by Gold-Onwude that was immediately answered on the other end by Alex Fuller, who started the extra period because Anosike had fouled out. Tennessee had three other players in foul trouble in Parker, Hornbuckle and Angie Bjorklund, who all had four fouls.
Bjorklund finished the game without a point – she was 0-5 – and had trouble getting open looks.
"I thought they did a good job of identifying her and staying with her in all of our action," Summitt said. "Obviously Angie will get better, and we did not run a lot of things to Angie to free her up. I think that's because we were focused on trying to really get the ball inside and establish our inside game."
"When they were denying me I think – and when they're denying Candace same thing with her – it opens a lot up for our other teammates, and we tried to use that," Bjorklund said. "When I did have a shot I just wasn't knocking it down."
Parker was guarded by Kayla Pedersen with help from Wiggins.
"I thought Kayla worked really hard, and did a great job, played good position defense," VanDerveer said. "Candice did a really nice job of coming in and helping try to double Candace. Candace Parker is a fabulous player, just a terrific player, and for our freshman, Kayla Pedersen, to step in and just have the poise and the determination, I'm really proud of how she played.
"There's no shame in someone getting 25 points on you. Candace Parker is just a fabulous player. Kayla wasn't afraid to be physical with her."
Hornbuckle was left open when Stanford doubled Parker – Parker had four assists to just one turnover and found three different teammates for open jumpers – and had 15 points and hit three 3-pointers.
"She's having the best year of her career," Summitt said of Hornbuckle. "She's been very efficient. I hated it when she turned the ball over because I knew she's so hard on herself, but she did so many good things. Her shot selection is much better. Her leadership is solid.
"Obviously her effort is there game in and game out. She's not a player that likes to take any possessions off."
Shannon Bobbitt contributed to the scoring effort with 12 points on 4-5 shooting. She accounted for Tennessee's four other trips to the foul line and hit three of them. She also played the entire game at 45 minutes.
"We probably should have encouraged Shannon to get more shots," Summitt said. "I think she does such a great job of being the floor leader sometimes she'll pass up some shots. That might have helped us a little bit more as well."
Tennessee did get some help from its bench. Alberta Auguste had six points in 15 minutes of play, and Fuller added five. Vicki Baugh had four rebounds in eight minutes and scored four points – off an offensive rebound under the basket and by corralling an errant pass and draining the short jumper.
Summitt noted there are lessons to learn from any game and particularly a loss.
"Not taking possessions off," Summitt said. "I thought within their high-low game we let the ball get in to the middle of the floor, and I thought Stanford did a great job in being able to pass from the high-low.
"I think without question you learn a lot more from a loss than you do from a win, because I think you can get players' attention much better. And when we come back after the holidays I think that we'll be much more focused. We're all disappointed that we didn't close out the game, didn't execute as well as would have liked to down the stretch, couldn't get to the free throw line. That was a problem for us all night long. We'll get better."
VanDerveer said the Tennessee-Stanford series – one in which the Lady Vols had won 11 straight – always helps her team get better.
"My attitude about playing Tennessee is we don't have to play them," VanDerveer said. "They don't have to play us. We're fortunate to be able to play against Tennessee and I've been really proud of all of our teams coming out and people have worked very hard, and we've had a lot of close games – games just like this one that have gone the other way.
"Ros made her free throws at the end. If she hadn't, who knows? We've had a lot of those, but playing Tennessee is always good for us, whether we have lost or whether we've won. Obviously it is exciting to win, and I'm really happy that our team did. This hopefully will help us get better. They have always helped us get better. We've had games like this that have sometimes gone the other way, but we found a way to pull it out and I'm really proud of our team for doing that."
The sophomore star for Stanford couldn't make the post-game press conference because she had to catch a flight to get home to New York for Christmas. The overtime left her with little time to spare to get to the airport.
"We'll see if she makes that,' VanDerveer said. "She made everything else in the overtime."
"That was the most clutch shots that I've seen," Wiggins said. "Ros has a lot of confidence in her shot, and she took it and she nailed them. That was so clutch."
The senior star for Stanford finally got a win over Tennessee.
"Well, it took four years but it definitely feels good," Wiggins said. "I've always thought of it wasn't going to be the end of anything, but a highlight. We're moving on from this. But it definitely does feel nice to beat the number one team in the country, and to do it the way we did."
Tennessee will lose its top spot in the polls now, but a December loss is not fatal for the Lady Vols. A trademark of Summitt's teams is that they get better in the latter half of the season.
"We don't like losing," said Hornbuckle, who described the locker room as solemn. "We're a very competitive team, but at the same time we've got to realize we get a little time with our family so we're going to try to enjoy the holidays and then get back and worry about basketball when we hit Knoxville."
Tennessee did bounce back from a poor half of basketball against UCLA, particularly Hornbuckle, and Summitt will find plenty on the game tape – besides no-calls on Parker's defenders – to present to her team when they reassemble in Knoxville after the break.
"I think it is a game that we look back at it we ended the year not the way that we wanted to, but obviously we have room to learn, room to grow," Hornbuckle said. "So we're going to come back fired up in the New Year and come out with a vengeance."