STANFORD, Calif. — Pick a number, any number.
Pat Summitt had a stat sheet full of statistics to bemoan in the wake of Tennessee’s 67-52 thrashing at the hands of Stanford Saturday. Amid the damage, the Lady Vols women’s basketball coach spotted a possible precedent-setting achievement.
“We only had four assists in this game,’’ she said. “That may be an all-time record at the University of Tennessee with Lady Vols basketball.”
They were enough to divert Summitt’s attention from a 44-34 deficit in rebounds and 21.9 percent field goal shooting (7 for 32) in the first half and UT’s lowest point total in its 27-game series with Stanford.
In any way quantifiable or imaginable, No. 3 Tennessee (9-1) didn’t measure up in this December showdown with the second-ranked Cardinal (9-0). Summitt referred to the outcome as a “butt kicking.”
“I want this to be loud and clear, Stanford was by far the best team on the floor today,’’ she said. “They looked like a Final Four team.”
Kayla Pedersen led four double-figure Stanford scorers with 16 points. Jayne Appel (14 rebounds) and Nnemkadi Ogwumike (10) did the heavy lifting on the boards.
Playing before a crowd of 6,809 at Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal overcame foul trouble and relatively chilly 39.3 percent field goal shooting with a determined defensive-oriented effort that reflected a new and improved attitude toward one of its most troublesome rivals.
“I wasn’t that nervous like I have been to play Tennessee in the past,’’ Appel said. “I have a lot of confidence in our team.”
Angie Bjorklund scored a team-high 15 points for Tennessee but needed 16 shots for her output. Glory Johnson scored 13 and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. After that, no other Lady Vol scored more than eight points.
Despite bolting to an 11-6 lead at the outset, Tennessee couldn’t stay the course. The Lady Vols scored just seven points during the final 12 minutes of the first half, falling behind 30-18 at the break and never drawing closer than eight points thereafter.
“We can’t let our offense effect our defense; it needs to be the other way around,’’ Bjorklund said. “As a leader, I take that upon myself. We have to get our defense going and turn that into offense.”
Stanford’s defense, on the other hand, had a great impact on Tennessee’s offense.
The Cardinal had the better of the physical play around the basket. Appel, who was sporting a scratch near her left eye afterward, drew her personal battle line with UT center Kelley Cain, in a predetermined spot.
“I felt like a lineman kind of,’’ Appel said. “I was told to meet her at the free throw line every time. I was doing my best job to do that. It was very physical. (Today) will be a recovery day for both of us.”
Appel scored 10 points while Cain had six.
The Cardinal’s perimeter defenders, meanwhile, helped make a shambles of UT’s guard play, which Summitt referred to as “way below average.” Point guard Shekinna Stricklen had one assist and four turnovers.
“We played by ourselves a big part of the (game),’’ Summitt said. “Give Stanford credit. They did a great job of taking away passing lanes.”
Summitt figured the Lady Vols’ quality shot attempts ranked right down there with the assists.
“I can probably count them on one hand and have some fingers left over,’’ she said.
To make matters worse, Tennessee also strayed from its intentions to set a fast tempo. The edge went to Stanford with Appel looking more like a wide receiver than a lineman in beating the Lady Vols up the floor at least three times for either baskets or free throws.
“I don’t think we stuck to our game plan and our scouting report,’’ Johnson said. “We should’ve run on them and we didn’t.”
While Stanford looked San Antonio-worthy to Summitt, the loss has her wondering whether her team might be veering off the road to the Final Four.
“This team has to make a decision real soon,’’ Summitt said. “Are we totally committed to getting to San Antonio? Because right now … we’re miles and could be years away.’’