The stage is set for a classic, as No. 1 UConn puts its 90-game winning streak on the line against No. 8 Stanford tonight at Maples Pavilion. The game tips off at 6 p.m. PST and will be broadcast on ESPN2.
1. The Cardinal is Clicking, Confident
After back-to-back road losses at DePaul and Tennessee, Stanford has responded with a resounding win at USF and an 89-52 thumping of No. 4 Xavier at home. Tuesday's win against the Musketeers, whose only previous loss was by one point at Duke, was Stanford's best performance of the season. According to some, the Cardinal looked like a team that "woulda-coulda-shoulda beat Tennessee...and can beat UConn." Count UConn head coach Geno Auriemma among those impressed. "If they're as good as they looked [against Xavier], I don't think anybody is going to beat them the rest of the year."
2. Maples Madness
Stanford has won 51 consecutive games at Maples Pavilion. That's not nearly as impressive as Connecticut's 90 consecutive wins overall, but expect the sellout crowd to give Stanford a boost.
3. Kayla Pedersen
Nneka Ogwumike and Jeanette Pohlen will need to have solid games, but Pedersen, who had 15 points and 17 rebounds in the 2010 title game loss to UConn, is the key to knocking off the Huskies. Pedersen was absent from both of Stanford's losses this season. She sat out the DePaul game after suffering a head injury against Fresno State, and though she played against Tennessee, she shot a dismal 3-for-16 from the field. The senior bounced back to score 16 points and grab 20 rebounds in an ultra-efficient 24 minutes against USF, and had 14 points and six rebounds against Xavier. If her outside shot is falling, watch out.
4. Stanford Has Something to Prove
The bitter taste of last season's championship game loss to UConn lingers. The Cardinal held the Huskies to 12 first-half points, their lowest total in school history, but let what should have been a much larger eight-point halftime lead slip away. "It was there for the taking," head coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We wasted a lot of opportunities." Thursday's game could have a Final Four feel and Stanford has some unfinished business to complete.
As for the one reason UConn's streak will roll on?
Maya Moore, of whom VanDerveer said, "She's arguably one of the best players to ever play the game."