STANFORD, Calif. (AP) Jaime Nared thinks it’s great Tennessee is still undefeated and also realizes it doesn’t mean all that much right now.
Nared scored a career-high 28 points, Evina Westbrook added 17 and No. 7 Tennessee fended off No. 18 Stanford 79-67 on Thursday night to improve to 12-0.
”I like the way we compete and how resilient we are,” Nared said. ”At the end of the day, it’s still December. It’s a great start but there’s so much basketball to go. We’re not relaxed with how we’re playing.”
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Mercedes Russell was held to three second-half points, but still managed to keep her streak of scoring in double figures in every game alive with 11. She also had 10 rebounds. Anastasia Hayes added 12 points for Tennessee.
”This was a great test for us,” Lady Vols coach Holly Warlick said. ”In the third quarter they jumped on us but we settled down.”
Brittany McPhee returned to the Stanford lineup for the first time in over a month to score a season-high 27 points, one off her career best.
”It was great having Brit back,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. ”She made a statement. She set the tone.”
Stanford (6-6) trailed by as many as 17 points early in the third quarter before closing within six with 3:17 remaining on Marta Sniezek’s steal and layup.
A key steal by Nared with two minutes left proved too much for the Cardinal to overcome. Nared’s 13-of-14 performance from the foul line also proved critical.
”That’s a Jamie-type play,” Westbrook said. ”We depend on her to make those plays down the stretch.”
Tennessee won despite being outrebounded for the first time all season. The Lady Vols entered play as the national leader in rebounding.
”Stanford is a great rebounding team,” Nared said. ”We would go on some big runs but they always came back.”
There was none of the regular ambience associated with the nonconference rivalry between the two traditional powers. No band, no students, no cheerleaders, no dollies, and no tree left the building relatively quiet.
Stanford’s Alyssa Jerome drew the loudest applause after hitting a tough layup to bring Stanford to 66-55 with 6:30 left to play and causing a Lady Vols timeout.
Cheridene Green recorded a steal and converted a layup at the buzzer to give the Lady Vols a 15-point advantage entering the fourth quarter.
”I thought that was a big play to give us some momentum,” Warlick said.
McPhee hit a layup with 3:34 remaining to play in the second quarter, bringing the Cardinal within 36-30 of the Lady Vols.
Stanford missed its next six shots and Tennessee went on a 10-0 run, with Hayes scoring six, to take a 46-30 lead into halftime.
McPhee was limited to 25 minutes (she played 28) and made sure to use her minutes wisely. She was 11-of-23 from the field (.478) while the rest of the team was 18-of-50 (.360). ”It was hard to be on the bench when they were playing,” McPhee said. ”We have to have other people forced to make the big shots.”
Tennessee: The Lady Vols took care of several streaks with their victory Thursday night. In addition to ending their five-game losing streak at Stanford, they extended their best start to a season in 12 years. Tennessee has done so with the same starting five in all 12 games and has led at halftime in every game, including nine by double figures.
Stanford: The Cardinal are off to their worst 12-game start since opening the 1998-99 season 4-8. Stanford finished 18-12 and was knocked out in the first round of the NCAA tournament that season. … Maya Dodson made her collegiate starting debut.
Tennessee: Opens SEC play at Kentucky on Dec. 31.
Stanford: Hosts UCLA in its Pac-12 opener on Dec. 29.
The headline on this story has been corrected to show that Tennessee is ranked No. 7, not No. 17.