After watching its 82-game home winning streak end, after sinking a single-game program-low 11 field goals, after making 55 percent of its free throws, shooting a single-game program low 19.3 percent and losing by more than 20 at Maples Pavilion for the first time since 1986, there wasn’t much Stanford’s Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer could say.
“It was a bad day for us,” she said. “But I plan on waking up [Sunday] just thinking about what we need to do to get better, to maximize the strength of our best player [Chiney Ogwumike] who is a hard worker. This will challenge our team.
“I hope this gets everyone’s attention on our team about how hard we need to compete … Our team has seen what is out there. No it will be our time to respond.”
This is important for UConn because it is conceivable that down the road it could see Stanford again at the Final Four in New Orleans. UConn has played Stanford in the Final Four three times in the last five seasons.
VanDerveer has a young team that she is certain will learn from its many mistakes on Saturday
“I live in the here and now,” she said. “We have a lot of work to do. Out coaches are going to work harder to give those who want to step up a chance to be successful.
“But I don’t think what happened [Saturday] is a good thing, to be so ineffective in so many areas is extremely disappointing and frustrating. In some ways, the success we had early may have hurt us. The coaches knew what we lost last year [All-American Nneka Ogwumike, the WNBA’s rookie of the Year]. But this is beyond a wake-up call.”
Ogwumike, a junior forward and preseason All-American, shooting 61.9 percent, led Stanford with 18 points and 13 rebounds. But she shot just 6 of 22 in the process after being hounded by a variety of UConn defenders.
“I don’t honestly think I have ever experienced anything like this,” Ogwumike said. “It’s tough to swallow. But this adds a lot of fuel to the fire. The Connecticut team we played for 40 minutes is the national standard. The great thing now is that we’ve experienced the standard. And one thing we are good at is responding. We will remember this. I know I will definitely be motivated by this.”
Stanford became No. 1 by defeating Baylor, the defending national champion, on Nov. 16 in Hawaii. The Cardinal won, 71-69, in a game that Baylor’s All-American guard Odyssey Sims played just the first four minutes because of a hamstring injury.
“UConn came into the game on a mission and it was mission accomplished,” VanDerveer said. “When we played Baylor, they did not have the same body language UConn did. They did not have the same intensity, although they [the Lady Bears] are a very talented team with the best player in the nation [Brittney Griner].
“But UConn played more of an all-around team game against us. We played better against Baylor. But UConn and Baylor are great teams and we have to decide if we are going to be a great team, too.”
VanDerveer said she left very impressed with how improved UConn was this season, particular players like senior Kelly Faris and junior Stefanie Dolson.
“This is UConn’s culture, its expectation,” VanDerveer said.