Stormin' to Norman: VU faces Stanford in Sweet 16

The second-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores (26-7) venture to Norman, Okla., to meet sixth-seeded Stanford (26-6) in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals Sunday at 6:00 p.m. CT (ESPN2, 560 WNSR-AM). The Cardinal boasts one of the country's top players in senior forward Nicole Powell (left). Here's everything you need to know to get ready for the matchup.

The second-seeded Vanderbilt Commodores (26-7) venture to Norman, Okla., to meet the sixth-seeded Stanford Cardinal in the NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinals Sunday at 6:00 p.m. CT. This marks the Black and Gold's 11th trip to the NCAA Regionals.

In the other semifinal matchup, the fourth-seed Baylor Lady Bears face top-seeded Tennessee at 8:00 p.m. CT. The two winners will meet in the NCAA Regional Final Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. CT with a berth in the NCAA Final Four in New Orleans on the line.

Last time out, the Commodores defeated the homestanding Chattanooga Lady Mocs, 60-44, to end the nation's longest winning streak at 27 games. Two Vanderbilt players posted double-doubles as senior Hillary Hager had 12 points and 11 rebounds, while freshman Carla Thomas led the squad with 15 tallies and 11 boards. Senior forward Jenni Benningfield added 12 points and freshman point guard Dee Davis added eight assists. Vanderbilt shot a blistering 52.8% from the field, while limiting the Lady Mocs to just 27.0%.

The #6-seed Stanford Cardinal (26-6/14-4 Pacific-10), under the direction of legendary head coach Tara Vanderveer, will matchup against the Vanderbilt Commodores (26-7/8-6 SEC) in the squads initial meeting all-time in the Midwest Regional Semifinals in Norman, Okla.

The Cardinal advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the 12th time in their history, while coach Vanderveer picked up her 600th career victory in Stanford's opening round triumph over 11th-seeded Missouri at the Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Ariz.

The Cardinal and White boast a solid lineup from top to bottom with 11 letterwinners and all five starters back for a team which just picked up its fourth consecutive Pacific-10 regular-season title and its second straight Pacific-10 Conference Tournament title.

Stanford boasts a player with every tool imaginable in senior Nicole Powell as the forward not only leads the Cardinal is scoring at 20.0 ppg, but is tops on the squad in rebounding average (11.0 rpg), assists (116) and steals (56), while boasting 53 three-point baskets. Her list of achievements is staggering. Powell is a three-time All-American and was selected as the Pacific-10 Tournament's Most Valuable Player for the third year in a row. The senior's also a four-time first team All-Pac-10 selection and a two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year choice. Against Oklahoma in the NCAA's Second Round, Powell surpassed 2,000 career points to rank fourth all-time in Stanford history.

Backing Powell in the usual starting five is an experienced group of upperclassmen that includes four juniors, two of them of the redshirt variety.

Junior guard Kelley Suminski is one of four Cardinal players with more than 50 made three-pointers (Kimyacioglu 55, Powell 53, Borchardt 52, Suminski 51) and rates second on the squad at 10.2 ppg. The honorable mention Pac-10 selection is second on the team in assists with 94 for an average of 2.9 helpers per game.

Juniors Susan Borchardt (G) and T'Nae Thiel (F) combine for 15.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg. Thiel is Stanford's leading field-goal percentage shooter at .517, while Borchardt is the top three-point threat at a .444 clip. Redshirt junior Chelsea Trotter adds 6.2 ppg and 3.9 rpg, while shooting .504 from the floor.

Off the bench, Stanford boasts several weapons as junior Sebnem Kimyacioglu leads SU with 55 triples and freshman forward/center Kristen Newlin has a team-high 49 blocked shots.

Overall Stanford is tops in the NCAA in free throw percentage at .811, rates fourth in three-point field goals per game at 7.6 triples (244 total) and is ninth in three-point field goal percentage (.381). The Cardinal do a solid job of holding on to the ball by averaging only 14.7 miscues per contest.

The Cardinal and White enter tonight's game on a six-game winning streak, while five of their six losses on the campaign were by nine points or less. SU and Vanderbilt boast common opponents in Georgia and Tennessee. The Commodores went 1-1 against UGA and 0-2 versus the Lady Vols, while the Cardinal defeated the Lady Bulldogs 61-59 and lost in overtime to Tennessee, 70-66.

The fourth-seeded Baylor Lady Bears (26-8/10-6 Big-XII) enter the NCAA Regionals for the first time in their program's history after a 91-76 rout of the Florida Gators at "The Pit" in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in second round action. This is the third time that BU has participated in the NCAA Tournament (2001, 2002 and 2004). The Green & Gold could be a Midwest Regional Final opponent for the Commodores if both squads advance.

Led by Women's Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Kim Mulkey-Robertson, the Lady Bears reached the 20-win plateau for the fourth-consecutive season with a 26-8 mark in 2003-04. The Green & Gold will matchup against perennial powerhouse and top-seeded Tennessee in the round of 16 with a berth in the Midwest Regional Final on the line.

The Lady Bears boast one of the nation's most prolific offenses (6th NCAA) at 77.3 ppg. They outscore opponents by 16.3 ppg to rate ninth in the nation, rank 14th in the NCAA in field goal percentage at .463 and are sixth in three-point field goal percentage at .384. Baylor is no slouch on the defensive side of the ball as the Lady Bears outrebound foes by 6.5 boards a contest, limit opponents to just 60.9 ppg and hold teams to .361 from the floor and .307 from behind the three-point arc. The squad also blocks 5.4 shots a game as four Lady Bears have 27 or more alterations.

First-Team All-Big XII selections Sophia Young (team-leading .561 field-goal percentage) and Steffanie Blackmon (.501 FG%) lead BU in scoring and rebounding as the duo averages 16.9 ppg/8.6 rpg and 15.6 ppg/6.9 rpg, respectively. However, Blackmon is currently nursing a dislocated left kneecap that she suffered in the Big-XII Tournament and will likely be unavailable against the Lady Vols.

During the Big-XII Tournament, Young passed both the 1,000-point and 600-rebound plateaus. She stands as the fastest player in Big-XII history to 500 boards having passed the milestone in just 53 games.

Freshman forward Emily Niemann is Baylor's leading three-point threat at .434 on 72-of-166 from behind the three-point line and averages 9.8 ppg. Senior guard Jessika Stratton totals 9.5 ppg and boasts 131 assists in addition to 46 made triples. Senior forward/center Dionne Brown contributes 8.3 ppg and 5.5 rpg, while junior guard Chelsea Whitaker averages 5.1 points and 4.6 assists per game (157 total).

Both Vanderbilt and Baylor share two common opponents as the squads each faced Florida and Mississippi State. Vanderbilt lost both matchups against the Gators, while BU took two meetings with UF. Each team routed MSU as the Lady Bears trounced the Bulldogs 88-45, while VU posted an 87-64 triumph.

The Tennessee Lady Vols (28-3/14-0), under legendary head coach Pat Summitt (849 career victories), are also a possible Midwest Regional Final matchup for the Vanderbilt Commodores. UT will face fourth-seeded Baylor in the semifinals on March 28.

UT and the Black and Gold met twice this season with Tennessee taking both meetings. The Lady Vols defeated VU on Jan. 22 by a 79-54 count in Knoxville, but needed a 37-point effort from Tasha Butts to hold off the Commodores 94-88 in the rematch in Nashville on Feb. 15.

The Orange and White boast a wealth of experience with four seniors on this year's roster. Overall eight available Lady Vols average at least 15.8 minutes per contest. Tennessee's depth was hurt with a season-ending ACL injury to starting point guard Loree Moore suffered during the #1-#2 matchup at Duke, but the Lady Vols still managed to complete a second consecutive unblemished SEC regular-season to pick up its seventh-consecutive SEC title.

Junior forward Shyra Ely is the squad's leading scorer (14.9 ppg) and rebounder (8.1 rpg), while senior Ashley Robinson (C) is the Lady Vols' leading shot blocker with 65 stuffs and is also second on the team in field goal percentage at .478. The 6'5" center is the squad's worst free-throw shooter at just .418 on 38-of-91 from the charity stripe. Sophomore Shanna Zolman leads the nation in FT% at .950 on 76-of-80 from the line and is the team's top three-point shooter at .438 (53 triples). Senior Tasha Butts contributes 10.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg for the Orange and White and posted a staggering 37 points in UT's 94-88 win over Vanderbilt at Memorial Gym on Feb. 15.

UT has always won games with defense and rebounding. This year has been no different as Tennessee currently holds opponents to .375 from the field, .273 from behind the arc and outrebound its foes by an impressive 7.8 boards per contest. Turnovers have been a problem for Tennessee at times this year as the Orange & White average 17.8 miscues a game.

The Lady Vols have played 14 games against ranked teams this year and recorded a 11-3 record, while the Commodores are 6-3 against ranked foes. UT has won three of its last four against teams in the top 25, while VU has emerged victorious in five straight contests against those in the polls.

Tennessee has won the last six meetings in the series with VU and holds a 6-2 advantage over Vanderbilt on neutral courts. Only once have the two squads met in the NCAA Tournament with second-seeded Tennessee defeating the top-seeded Commodores 68-63 in the 2002 Midwest Regional Final in Ames, Iowa.


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