It seemed at times Tuesday that the No. 8 Stanford women’s basketball team (8-1) could not miss, despite the defensive efforts of the ninth ranked Tennessee Lady Vols (8-1). The three-ball, an often hard-to-perfect aspect of basketball, was very kind to the Cardinal.
This, in conjunction with a relatively poor offensive effort, led to the Lady Vols suffering their first defeat of the season, 95-85.
“Give Stanford credit,” head coach Holly Warlick said. “They were tougher, more poised, we lacked attention to detail. We knew they were going to shoot the three, and we gave up 14.”
Tennessee has faced teams that love to shoot the three this year, with its opponents averaging almost 18 attempts per game, but it has yet to face a team that makes them at the clip Stanford did.
The Cardinal finished 14-of-24 from behind the arc, making nine more three's than the average opponent of the Lady Vols this season. Forty-two of Stanford’s points were from beyond the arc. DiJonai Carrington and Lacie Hull both finished four-for-five from 3-point range, and Carrington led all scorers with 33 points.
“The effort just wasn’t there for a full 40 minutes,” sophomore Rennia Davis said. “I think there were times where we had five people on one page, and then there were other times when we had maybe two or three people who didn’t know what was going on.”
While Stanford remained hot on offense, stifling mostly any rallies Tennessee could muster, the Lady Vols struggled to establish a consistent offensive effort. They started the game ice cold, making just 33 percent of their shots in the first quarter.
Things started to heat up slightly in the third quarter, and they were able to wipe away a 10-point halftime deficit and take their first lead of the game at 56-55. That lead was held for exactly 38 seconds, the only period throughout the whole game in which Tennessee had the advantage. After a 50 percent clip in the third, the closing period proved to be another rough patch for the Lady Vols offense.
Making just 7 of their 18 total shots, Stanford was able to comfortably extend its lead until the final whistle.
“They were making shots and we weren’t, so we can’t keep trading baskets with them,” senior Meme Jackson said. “And that’s why we dug ourselves in that hole.”
One of the only consistent aspects of Tennessee’s offense was sophomore guard Evina Westbrook.
Westbrook has been one of the hottest players in women’s college basketball for the past couple of weeks, continuing that streak against the Cardinal on Tuesday, scoring 20+ points for the fourth game in a row, the first Lady Vol to do it since the since Candace Parker in the 2007-08 season.
She was the spark for the largely inconsistent Lady Vols offense in the losing effort, finishing with a team-high 29 points on 10-for-21 shooting. Alone, she was responsible for almost a third of Tennessee’s points.
The Oregon native’s 29 points ties her career high, and with 10 assists, she notched the first double-double of her career.
“I thought Evina was the one player that competed tonight, she competed,” Warlick said. “And she’s been doing that. I loved her aggressiveness. I wanted her to take it just about every time, cause she was attacking the basket.”
Outside of Westbrook, the Lady Vols had three other players finish in double figures, including close to a career high 14 points for freshman Zaay Green. Green started out poorly, missing her first eight shots.
Following that, however, the Duncanville, Texas native was a pivotal part of Tennessee’s near rally, finishing the game making six of her next eight shots before fouling out, including two three-pointers, before fouling out.
Rennia Davis notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards, just her second of the season.
The Lady Vols will next return home for their second of four straight home contests, facing the East Tennessee State Buccaneers. Tip-off is schedule for 7 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on SEC Network+.