Attention Grabber

By Jeff Lippman - December 23, 2007


When sitting around with friends and family, women's basketball is not usually the preferred choice of television program.

Last night it was.

Saturday's epic overtime battle between No. 1 Tennessee and No. 5 Stanford was so good, so intense, that I personally know two people who never before watched women's basketball, but tuned in to see this one's incredible ending.

It had all the makings of a classic. Two days from Christmas Eve, late-night 10:30 p.m. ET start, No. 1 at No. 5, the nation's best player vs. perhaps its second. You just knew Stanford-Tennessee was going to be good. Nobody could have known it was going to be that good.

First Tennessee takes a sizable lead in the first half. Stanford claws back in the second half as the Lady Vols couldn't sustain the momentum they had gained in the first frame. Stanford has a lead with seconds to play and what happens? One thing you wouldn't expect followed by another you absolutely knew was coming.

Candice Wiggins missed two free throws that would have "Ice"d it for the Cardinal in regulation. And of course, that was immediately followed by the give-Candace-the-ball-and-get-out-of-the-way strategy employed by the Lady Vols, and Parker delivered, sending the game into the extra period.

Most, I'm sure, at this point expected the Lady Vols to take over once again and run away with the game in OT. But that didn't happen, did it? Instead it was Stanford who hit big shot after big shot to grab a lead that Tennessee could never get back. But it wasn't Wiggins in overtime, she helped, but the star for Stanford on this night was sophomore guard Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.

Gold-Onwude scored nine of her 13 points in the extra frame, including both of her threes, and each time she scored it meant more to her team than the last. You know Pat Summitt and Tennessee were content with Gold-Onwude shooting the basketball as opposed to Stanford's stars like Wiggins, Jayne Appel or even freshman Kayla Pedersen.

But Gold-Onwude made them pay and Stanford won the game - and many fans affections - 73-69. But Stanford, and Tennessee, won a lot more for the game of women's basketball.

Impact Of This Game:
Obviously, since most, myself included, thought that Tennessee was indestructible and wouldn't lose a game this year, we can put that idea to bed.

The correct sentence should read: Tennessee is next to indestructible, but there are a select few who, if the stars align, can take down the champs. Stanford is definitely one of them.

I should start by saying that Tennessee isn't hurt too much at all by this loss. It was on the road, it was a close hard-fought battle. If I had to guess, I'd say the AP will rank the Lady Vols No. 2 when the poll comes out, making Connecticut-Tennessee still a one-two punch.

Stanford will most likely leapfrog Maryland and North Carolina and move into third, and they absolutely deserve nothing less.

The Cardinal are 10-1, with their only loss coming in the U.S. Virgin Islands at the Paradise Jam against No. 2 - soon to be No. 1 - Connecticut. They have now beaten three of the four Top 10 teams they have faced having also defeated then-No. 3 Rutgers and then-No. 10 Baylor earlier in the year.

The Cardinal are serious contenders for the Final Four and for the national championship. Because, hey, if you can beat Tennessee, you've got something special.

But as I wrote previously, so much more than what Tennessee lost or what Stanford gained was what was gained by the sport of women's college basketball. That's how you get people to take notice.

Posted by Jeff Lippman at 09:09 AM on December 23, 2007
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