Stanford impressive 73-60 women's basketball victory over No. 10 Tennessee in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday ensures that the Cardinal will be undefeated when it faces Connecticut next Saturday at Stanford.
Whether it was enough to keep the Cardinal No. 1 in the polls remains to be seen, but you'd have to assume Stanford (11-0) and UConn will be the top two ranked teams when they meet at Maples Pavilion at 1 p.m. on Dec. 29, a game that will be televised on ESPNU, but seems worthy of being televised on a station more people get.
Both teams will be undefeated as the Huskies (10-0) beat Hartford 92-25 on Saturday in their final game before facing Stanford.
UConn has won its games by an average margin of 45.1 points, and its closest game was a 15-point victory over No. 9 Maryland. Meanwhile, the Cardinal has won its games by an average margin of 24 points, and received a serious scare from South Carolina on Wednesday before winning that game 53-49.
That game brought into question whether the Cardinal would be able to hang with UConn, even on Stanford's home court, but the Cardinal's performance against Tennessee on the Vols' homecourt suggests it can.
Some very good Stanford teams have been unable to win in Knoxville, and playing the Vols in front of more than 13,000 Tennessee fans in the second game of a road trip made the task even more challenging.
The last Stanford team to win in Knoxville was its 1996-97 squad, which was one of the best Cardinal teams in history. And even that team got Tennessee on the front end of its road trip, then lost to Old Dominion in the back end of that trip by 17 points. The second game of a road trip is always more difficult.
This Stanford team took control of the Vols from the outset, and never let Tennessee into the game, handing the Vols (7-3) their first home loss of the season.
Chiney Ogwumike had 21 points, 19 rebounds, five assists and two blocks, and her basket less than six minutes into the game gave the Cardinal a lead it never lost. Stanford held a double-digit lead most of the first half, and the Vols never got closer than nine in the second half.
"The most important thing was that she (Ogwumike) didn't get in foul trouble," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "It was disciplined basketball. She does everything for us. She's a leader; she puts the team on her back. She made her big sister Nneka proud today. I'm really pleased with how she has developed into a go-to player with us with rebounding. She's a great player."
For the second straight game, Ogwumike played virtually the entire game. She played all 40 minutes on Wednesday, and did not come out of Saturday's game until just 25 seconds remained and the Cardinal had a 14-point lead.
Bonnie Samuelson, who has not been quite as sharp from long range as she had been last season, made all three of her three-point attempts against Tennessee, including two late in the first half that gave the Cardinal a 33-19 lead 45 seconds before halftime.
"I think the only problem with Bonnie's threes was why didn't I put her in sooner?" VanDerveer said. "Bonnie's an excellent shooter. She's so confident and knocks them down. She knows what we're doing. Bonnie had a sprained ankle and missed a game, and I'm really excited for how well she played."
The Cardinal starters were just 1-for-9 on three-pointers, but Samuelson gives the Cardinal a much needed perimeter threat.
"It's awesome to defend our ranking," Samuelson said. " We came into this week knowing it was going to be tough, and we prepared well. We knew both of these teams were going to be excellent. I think it's exciting to see our team step up to the pressure. Both games were very competitive, and it's really exciting to get two wins and go home and be happy before coming back to go against UConn."
Amber Orrange had a solid game with 14 points, six assists, three steals and just two turnovers. After collecting a season-high 18 turnovers in the victory over South Carolina, the Cardinal had just nine against Tennessee. Turnovers will be a key issue against UConn.
Toni Kokenis (11 points) and Joslyn Tinkle (10) both reached double figures in scoring for Stanford.
The Cardinal limited Tennessee to 31.9 percent shooting, although VanDerveer won't be pleased that Tennessee pulled down 21 offensive rebounds.