STANFORD, Calif. — When the Tennessee women's basketball team hit some early shots Wednesday night, Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer used the first timeout to provide a defensive reminder to her players: "Tighten it up!"
Kiana Williams led the way on both ends, finishing with 19 points to surpass 1,000 for her career to go with seven assists as the top-ranked Cardinal beat the No. 23 Lady Volunteers 78-51 to remain undefeated through 10 games.
Lexie Hull added 11 points and nine rebounds to help Stanford move within a victory of the program's best start since 2012-13, and freshman Francesca Belibi came off the bench to contribute seven points and three blocked shots before fouling out.
Rennia Davis scored 14 points to lead Tennessee (8-2), but she shot just 5-for-20 and no other Lady Vol reached double figures.
The 27-point win was Stanford's largest margin of victory in the rivalry, and Tennessee scored its fewest points in any game against the Cardinal.
"People are really working hard at both ends of the court and they're encouraging each other, which I think is so special," VanDerveer said.
The Hall of Fame coach's team, one of four Pac-12 programs currently ranked in the top 10, played in-your-face, swarming defense to stymie the Lady Vols in the latest edition of a storied series that began in 1988 in Knoxville. That's where the Cardinal captured the first of their two national championships in 1990.
Belibi and Stanford's other post players made things tough on Tennessee in the paint, driving for short jumpers and layups and plugging the middle on defense by getting her hands up to contest and alter shots.
Davis scored eight of Tennessee's initial 12 points with a pair of early 3-pointers but picked up her second foul at the 4:49 mark of the first quarter — so Davis sat down, and then Stanford responded with a 10-0 run to finish the quarter to lead 20-12. Tennessee missed its final 10 shots of the opening period and another four in the second before Jordan Horston's layup at the 7:17 mark.
"We've got to take pride in our defense," Williams said. "We have a lot of weapons on offense, so I think it comes down to getting stops on defense and making sure we're executing our game plan."
Horston added nine points for the Lady Vols, whose first-year leader, Kellie Harper, had never coached against a top-ranked team. Harper picked up a technical foul late in the third quarter as Stanford continued to pull away, and Tennessee couldn't overcome shooting 25.6% in the first half and 28% overall.
"We weren't getting a lot of easy looks even when we made those," Harper said. "I think their defense is probably a little underrated."
The Cardinal have won six of the past nine series meetings but are 12-25 overall against the Lady Vols — and nine of Stanford's 12 victories in the series have been at home. Tennessee won 83-71 at Stanford in its previous visit to Maples Pavilion on Dec. 21, 2017, to snap the Cardinal's five-game home winning streak in the rivalry.
Guard Lacie Hull returned for Stanford after sitting out Sunday's 71-52 win over Ohio State with a foot injury.
Stanford held a 50-44 rebounding advantage, getting eight from freshman Ashten Prechtel to go along with her 10 points. Tennessee was leading the country in defensive rebounds per game at 35.8 and ranked second in field-goal percentage defense at at 28.5% going into Wednesday.
"To outrebound them is a feat in itself," VanDerveer said.
The Lady Vols are 14-34 facing the No. 1 team, including 6-7 on the road. Tennessee hasn't beaten a No. 1 team since topping LSU 67-65 on March 6, 2005.
Harper coached against VanDerveer for the third time and has never won. Harper is 1-5 for her career against top-five opponents.
Tennessee plays at Portland State on Saturday before a four-day holiday break. The Lady Vols are scheduled to reconvene for practice Dec. 26 ahead of their final nonconference game, Dec. 29 at home against Howard.
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