The injury-riddled Stanford women's team became the first No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history -- men's or women's --to lose a first-round game, falling to No. 16 seed Harvard, 71-67, on Saturday night at Maples Pavilion.
Harvard now will meet No. 9 seed Arkansas, a 76-70 victor over No. 8 Hawaii, in Monday's second-round game. The winner will advance to the West Regionals at the New Arena in Oakland next weekend.Adding to the mythic proportions of the upset was the fact the loss snapped a 59-game Maples Pavilion winning streak for the Cardinal, whose seniors had never lost a game here. Stanford's last loss in Maples was an 82-65 defeat to Purdue in the West Regional finals in 1994.
Stanford (21-6) was not a typical No. 1 seed after losing Vanessa Nygaard and Kristin Folkl to knee injuries. Nygaard tore the ACL in her right knee late in last Saturday's game at Oregon State. Folkl tore the ACL in her left knee in the first two minutes of practice Tuesday.
"It's just been a horrible week," said Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer. "Tonight wasn't the worst of it."
Harvard (23-4) earned the victory.
"We've set a lot of records this year, but they're sure not as big as this one," said Harvard coach Kathy Delaney-Smith. "We've broken records and created history, but this tops the list."
Stanford took a 3-0 lead on Regan Freuen's 3-pointer to open the game, but Harvard scored the next seven points, then opened a 12-point advantage with a 14-3 run.
Stanford rallied to take a one-point lead on a Freuen 3-pointer, but Harvard scored the final 10 points of the first half.
"That was a great run," said Delaney-Smith. "I looked up at the scoreboard and was surprised we were ahead by that much. I think it was important to go in with that big lead."
Harvard built the lead to 10 early in the second half, but Stanford, playing with an urgency fueled by desperation, tied the game on an Olympia Scott basket, then took the lead on two Heather Owen free throws with 9:26 to play.
Sarah Russell 34 seconds later, becoming the first Harvard player other than Allison Feaster to score in the second half. On the play, she drew Scott's fourth foul.
Feaster, the nation's leading scorer, was too much for Stanford, which was forced to start Sarah Dimson, whom VanDerveer hoped could slow Feaster down.
Dimson couldn't, and it fell to Scott to try. But Scott couldn't handle Feaster, who would move to the perimeter and shoot over her or drive around her.
When Scott went out in the second half, freshman Karesa Granderson was victimized twice by a driving Feaster, then Freuen switched to Feaster, got posted and allowed another basket.
Feaster, who guarded Scott and made two big defensive plays late in the game, wasn't confident of winning until hitting a free throw for the game's final points with 17 seconds to play.
"I never counted them out. I always expected they would hit a shot coming down the stretch," Feaster said.
Though Feaster was Harvard's go-to player, it was Suzie Miller who sank the Crimson's two most important baskets.
Her 16-foot jumper put Harvard ahead for good, 66-65 with 1:32 to play.
After Stanford's Milena Flores missed a 3-pointer with Feaster, who had 13 rebounds, grabbing the miss, Miller hit a 3-pointer with 46 seconds to play.
Feaster, who had broken up a long Flores-to-Scott pass with Stanford up by three earlier, stripped Scott of the ball on Stanford's next possession and sank a free throw to build Harvard's lead to five with 28 seconds to play.
The absence of Nygaard, the team's top outside threat and defender who would have guarded Feaster, and Folkl, whose powerful inside play would have prevented Harvard from holding a 41-37 rebounding advantage, made a telling difference.
Stanford, the nation's leading shooting team at 52.8 percent, shot a season-low 33.3 percent.
"We didn't play with the type of confidence we played with all season. We didn't get the perimeter shooting we got all year," said VanDerveer.
"The whole tone of the game was set in some respects by the way they doubled, tripled and sometimes even quadrupled us inside. Regan (who had a career-high 19 to lead the Cardinal) looked for her shots, but we really missed Vanessa with her outside shot."