SAN ANTONIO - Hold up on the Connecticut coronation. Sure, UConn is on the greatest run in women's college basketball history, and yes they've torn through the NCAA tournament. But coach Tara VanDerveer and her Stanford Cardinal think they just might be able to spoil the party in Tuesday night's national title game.
SAN ANTONIO - Hold up on the Connecticut coronation.
Sure, UConn is on the greatest run in women's college basketball history, and yes they've torn through the NCAA tournament. But coach Tara VanDerveer and her Stanford Cardinal think they just might be able to spoil the party in tonight's national title game.
With a few tweaks here and there from their 12-point December loss to UConn, the Cardinal feel they can pull off the monumental upset, ending the Huskies' 77-game winning streak and preventing their seventh national championship and second straight unbeaten season.
"We'll do some things different, but a lot of the things that we need to do are easy to fix," Stanford forward Kayla Pedersen said.
For 22 minutes the Cardinal hung right with UConn. Stanford shot 57 percent in the first half and held a
40-38 advantage at the break - the only time this season the Huskies trailed at the half.
"I've watched the game several times, and I know that we're capable of beating them in 20 minutes," VanDerveer said. "At the same time the second half of the game got away from us. We've probably focused more on how it got away from us."
Guided by coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies have won five of the last 10 NCAA titles and reached at least the regional finals all but once since 2000.
This season, they have trailed only twice during the second half. This tournament, they have trailed a total of eight seconds, and that was back in the first round.
"We're in the position that every senior that plays college basketball wants to be in," said Kalana Greene, who along with AP player of the year Tina Charles will be playing her final game for UConn tonight. "I think we're just going to try to focus everyone up because these are the last couple of moments as a team. And we're enjoying it. I know I am."
No team has been able to put together a 40-minute effort against UConn to even threaten the Huskies. Each of the 77 victories has been by double digits.
In the Stanford game, UConn jumped out to a 19-10 lead before star Maya Moore got in foul trouble. The Cardinal made their run with the three-time All-American on the bench.
A good start will be critical for the Cardinal.
"That's really the key for us," VanDerveer said. "Against this team, we've got to stay in contact with them. We're not a super athletic, pressing, trapping team that can comeback from being down 15."
Tonight's championship game will be the sixth time that the top two teams in the final Top 25 poll will meet for the title, with the last coming in 2002 when UConn beat Oklahoma.
"This is what we've worked for and what we dreamed of since preseason," Moore said. "We have a really good Stanford team in our way, and it doesn't take a whole lot to motivate us right now."
Despite having to get through Oklahoma first, the Cardinal were already getting ready to play UConn. Center Jayne Appel said she and a few other players packed UConn scouting reports in "the bottom of our suitcase."
"We did a lot of things wrong, according to our scouting report. We weren't very smart," Appel said of the first time they played UConn.
Unfortunately the scouting report doesn't show exactly how well the Huskies have been playing. There's a reason they've won 77 straight games.