The seventh-ranked Lady Vols (11-0) travel to Palo Alto to take on the No. 18 Stanford Cardinals (6-5) on Thursday night. The game marks both teams’ last match-up before conference play. In their last meeting, the Lady Vols narrowly defeated Stanford 59-51 inside Thompson-Boling Arena last season.
After cruising by Long Beach State on Sunday night, the Lady Vols are 11-0 for the first time since 2005-2006 and will need to keep their momentum heading into Thursday night. Although the team is 0-5 playing in Palo Alto in the last five years, this is a different Tennessee team that can easily break its losing streak. The Lady Vols have blown by opponents this season and have been shooting very efficiently with a .485 average shooting percentage. Defensively, Tennessee has given up 61.1 points allowed per game.
Leading the way offensively for the Lady Vols will be seniors Jaime Nared and Mercedes Russell who are averaging 17 points, and 16.9 points per game, respectively. Both seniors will be key defensively as well as they have combined for 34 steals and 25 blocks this season. The highly-regarded freshmen class will heavily contribute as well with Anastasia Hayes having led the team in scoring with 15 points in their win against Long Beach State.
A key player for Tennessee at both ends of the ball will be junior Meme Jackson. With all the talk surrounding senior leadership and freshmen potential, Jackson has flown under the radar and has put up impressive numbers this season. She is averaging 9.1 points per game and leads the team with 19 made three-pointers. Defensively, Jackson has tallied 16 steals this season. The junior will be another player that Stanford must keep an eye out on Thursday night.
Stanford will look to bounce back after an embarrassing loss to Western Illinois at home on Monday night. The win gave Western Illinois its first ever win over an AP Top-25 ranked opponent. Last season, the Cardinals finished out the postseason as a Final Four team, but this season is starting out much differently as they are 0-4 against ranked teams losing to Ohio State, UConn, Ohio State and Baylor. The Cardinals do, however, hold a five-game winning streak at home against the Lady Vols and will need home court advantage to help keep the game competitive.
The Cardinals will need to consistently make plays offensively to keep pace with Tennessee. They will look to rely on junior forward Alanna Smith who leads the team with 15 points per game and freshman guard Kiana Williams who has scored double-digit points in the last four games. The Lady Vols also need to keep an eye out on junior guard Marta Sniezek who will effectively distribute the ball as she leads the team with 48 assists this season. On defense, Stanford cannot allow Tennessee easy scoring opportunities as they face a Tennessee side that is averaging 88.8 points per game. The Cardinals will look to Smith on defense as well, as she leads the team with 20 blocks this season and will be a key player at both sides of the ball on Thursday night.
Stanford will be playing a formidable side and have a tough task ahead of them. The Cardinals have yet to prove themselves this season while Tennessee has already notched a statement win against Texas. If the Lady Vols can limit their mistakes and jump over the mental hurdle of having a five-game losing skid at Maples Pavilion, then they will easily earn another statement win and leave California with a record of 12-0. Stanford has a chance of keeping the game competetive, but poor performances in early losses to ranked teams and a shocking defeat to Western Illinois show that this Stanford team will not be able to keep Tennessee from leaving Palo Alto with a win.
Edited by Ben McKee
Feature image courtesy of UT Sports