By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Ending a two-game losing streak last week was more important to Stanford women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer than her 800th career victory -- accomplished with a 100-45 win over host USF and former Cardinal standout Jennifer Azzi.
There are more important issues to work out over the Christmas break. Finding another point guard, for example, likely tops the list. Adding a little depth wouldn't be a bad idea either.
The eighth-ranked Cardinal (7-2) has plenty on its plate this week, with No. 4 Xavier and top-ranked Connecticut visiting Maples Pavilion.
The Musketeers (10-1) lost their first game of the season at third-ranked Duke earlier last week and their visit Tuesday to Stanford, with a 1 p.m. scheduled tipoff, is their next contest.
Xavier would not only like to get that loss out of its system but gain some measure of revenge for losing to Stanford in last year's Elite Eight, a game decided when Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen raced the length of the court to score on a layup with no time remaining.
Connecticut, meanwhile, plays at Pacific Tuesday before coming to Stanford for a 6 p.m. game on Thursday.
The Huskies, winners of a college basketball record 89 straight, need no introduction. They continue to rule the sport with an iron fist and no amount of prying seems to work.
Stanford has the small consolation of handing Connecticut its last loss, in the 2008 national semifinals.
The Cardinal gave VanDerveer her 800th victory at USF last Wednesday in front of a packed house at Memorial Gym. VanDerveer's 800th career win was almost anticlimactic, coming against Azzi -- her former player, All-American and Olympian, who is in her first year with the Lady Dons.
The Cardinal entered its game at USF on a two-game losing streak, dropping a 91-71 decision to host DePaul and then losing to Tennessee, 82-72, in overtime.
Senior Kayla Pedersen missed the first game of her career at DePaul, ending a streak of 121 straight starts for Stanford after experiencing headaches from hitting her head on the court in the Cardinal's win over Fresno State a week earlier.
Pedersen's value to the team was notable in her absence. Yet, this was supposed to be the year Stanford acquired more depth. This was the season Pedersen could settle into one position. Now she's needed at guard more than ever as fifth-year senior Melanie Murphy continues to mend.
Pohlen, a natural off-guard, scored 24 points and Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 20 points but Stanford could not figure out how to beat the Lady Vols. Freshman Toni Kokenis was asked to try a final shot in regulation.
The road trip exposed Cardinal vulnerabilities, including the lack of depth, particularly at the post, and a true point guard. That 50-game home winning streak also appears to be in danger.
There was some good news out of Knoxville. Stanford rallied from a 14-point first-half deficit to take a six-point lead with 7:26 left to play.
The Cardinal seniors -- Pedersen, Pohlen, Murphy, Ashley Cimino and Hannah Donaghe -- last experienced a two-game losing streak Jan. 4-6, 2008 in a road trip at UCLA and USC.
Stanford hasn't lost three in a row since Jan. 6-13, 2001, which included a loss at home and two on the road to Oregon and Oregon State.
The last time Stanford lost two in a row, it responded with a 23-game winning streak that included the NCAA Final Four over Connecticut.